Regina Carter headlines NMU Jazz Festival

Ian Crane

From age four, Regina Carter has been playing the violin.  Flash forward a few decades and Carter is one of the most successful and internationally-acclaimed violinists in jazz.

In recent years, Carter has been looking to her past for inspiration.


“Working on this project has given me an insight into my own heritage as well as learn more about myself,” Carter said.

In an attempt to learn more about her family heritage and understand the music that affected their lives, Carter released the album “Southern Comfort,” which features 11 songs Carter felt touched by.

These tracks are arrangements and rearrangements of early field records from Appalachia.

Carter will be playing with the Southern Comfort band at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16 at Kaufmann Auditorium and the NMU Jazz Combo and Orchestra will join her on Friday at the same time and place.

Carter is the guest artist for NMU’s annual Jazz Festival, which is held on campus and lets the community experience jazz at both a professional and student level. Carter was the planned guest artist for last year, but due to a death in the family, had to cancel last minute.

“I’m really glad I could make it this year,” Carter said. “I was looking forward to it last year and was disappointed I              couldn’t come.”

As the Jazz Festival guest artist, Carter will be doing clinics with both Bothwell Middle School and Marquette High School, teaching students the importance of improvisation and phrasing as a string player in jazz.

“I love working with the students because it’s like teaching yourself,” Carter said. “You have to break things down and think about things in a different way.”

It is always positive for the students to play with the guest artist, Mark Flaherty, director of Jazz Festival, said. The caliber of the guest musicians along with the experiences they bring is an excellent learning experience for the students and a fantastic show for the community, Flaherty said.

“What these musicians give to the students and what they teach them can’t be learned in a book,” Flaherty said. “Playing with these top tier musicians shows them that these greats are really just people who put a lot of effort into a skill and that with time and practice any student could become one of the greats.”

The violinists in the music department are ecstatic and with good reason, Matthew Mitchell, a NMU alumnus with a  degree in music performance, said. Violinists of Carter’s calibur don’t come to Marquette very often.

“She is like ‘the’ violinist right now and I for one can’t wait to play with her,” Mitchell said.

Carter’s “Southern Comfort” is a very personal project, but she is not the sole artistic voice on the album, Carter said. Other members of her band also helped in the arranging process and developing different ideas.

“The idea ‘Southern Comfort’ is my own family history, and the band has a family feel,” Carter said. “I think it comes through the music that the Southern Comfort band has a more family vibe, and that’s what I want audiences to feel.”