Jazz Fest returns to NMU with original music


Photo courtesy of the NMU Music Department

JAZZ FEST – Mike Tomaro is the Director of Jazz Studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA and a well known saxophonist as well as composer. He is the guest artist at this year’s NMU Jazz Festival and has written original music for his performance with NMU students on Friday, March 25.

Olivia Apa, Staff Writer

Live music is returning to Northern’s campus this week through the NMU Jazz Festival, in-person after a two year long hiatus. 

The NMU Jazz Festival is an annual educational event that has been going on for over 20 years. However, the event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID and was held virtually the following year. 

“The arts are really a very important thing,” Mark Flaherty, head of the music department, said. “I think we found that through the course of the pandemic.”

From March 23 to 25, middle and high school bands will come from all over the Midwest to attend clinics and performances, as well a special guest artist performance. The general public is invited to attend as well. 

“It’s always fun to see people milling about,” Flaherty said. “There are some local jazz fans and concert goers that really come out and support.”

On Wednesday, March 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Reynolds Recital Hall, guest clinicians and NMU faculty members will work with the different bands offering fun and educational jazz opportunities.

On Thursday, March 24 in Reynolds Recital Hall there will be clinics and performances at 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. The opening concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. featuring the NMU Jazz Festival faculty combo with Flaherty on the trumpet. Admission to this event is free. 

On Friday, March 25 clinics and performances will run from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. in Reynolds Recital Hall. 

The guest artist, saxophonist and composer Mike Tomaro, will be giving a free jazz clinic at 1 p.m. on Friday. His final concert will be held at 7:30 p.m., featuring the NMU jazz band and combo with Tomaro. Tickets are $12 for general admission and can be found at the NMU ticket office. NMU students and individuals under 18 can attend for free. 

“[Tomaro] is very well known in jazz education circles, particularly as a composer and arranger,” Flaherty said. 

Tomaro wrote an original piece to perform with the NMU jazz band for the final concert. 

“I’ve never gotten the chance to play with the composer of the music that we’re doing,” Ethan Matteson, junior computer science major, said. Matteson plays guitar in the jazz band, as well as piano and guitar in the jazz combo. 

Northern’s music program was a big draw for Matteson. He had done music all throughout high school and knew he wanted to continue in college, even though he is not majoring in music.

“[The Jazz Festival] is a great outreach program,” Matteson said. “It is a really good way to go and get students more involved in music and also really look at NMU as an option for music.”

Jazz Fest reaches well beyond the music department, extending itself to both the university and broader Marquette communities as well. 

“Obviously we work with majors in our department, but our mission as a department goes beyond that,” Flaherty said. “If you’re a student, regardless of what you’re studying, it’s to your benefit to get exposure to all sorts of things.”

Owen Edwards, senior music education major specializing in saxophone, describes the event as one-of-a-kind, due to the wide variety of music students coming together in one place to play and learn. 

“I can’t wait to be with all the high school bands again and work with them and show them around,” Edwards said. “It’s a great experience for the high school students who come here with their jazz bands because they get to experience a big part of college life and being a music student.”

Edwards said that jazz is one of the best music genres to play because there is a lot of room for personal expression. 

“In jazz you can take liberties. You can add flair,” Edwards said. “If you’re in a sad or somber mood you can add that to your playing and be a bit more emotional, or if you’re happy you can play faster, play more fun.”

People interested in attending the event can find more information on the NMU Jazz Festival website.  

“Jazz is a unique American art form,” Flaherty said. “So the Jazz Festival is a way to expose students to the history that jazz holds and how it still remains a vital component of contemporary music.”