Throughout the day on February 18, five area high school jazz bands gathered to perform, learn, and improv with four different professional clinicians at the first annual Festival of Jazz hosted by Bethel University. Each band was comprised of about 20 students on a variety of instruments, including a flute, a clarinet and a bass clarinet, in addition to traditional jazz instruments. The event culminated with an evening concert, which was attended by the public.

The concert featured specially-selected high school soloists from the festival participants, Truth in Jazz (a professional big band comprised of music educators) and the Bethel University Jazz Ensemble, with guest clinicians Patrick Hession, trumpet; Jim Catalano, percussion; Jay Jehl, trombone; and Todd Williams, saxophone.

Steve Allen, director of the Bethel Jazz Ensemble and Truth in Jazz, developed the idea for the festival after realizing that although there are college band festivals in the area around this time of year, there are none for high school jazz bands.

The event was sponsored by Conn-Selmer, Inc., Quinlan & Fabish and BandTools. Genesis Laser Designs created awards and event merchandise.

According to Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, vice president of education, Conn-Selmer, Inc., the event “opened the landscape for so many to grow and experience something they would otherwise not have at their fingertips” and was “the start of a new understanding and appreciation for their given art form.”

Along with the evening concert, highlights of the festival included an impromptu lunchtime jam session in the Bethel rotunda and each band receiving about 20 minutes of training with long-time, world-class clinicians. The day left little downtime for participants, and about 20 Bethel students helped at the event, which made the day go smoothly.

“I’m proud of all our students. Our student helpers did a wonderful job,” says Allen. “They were relaxed and jumped in to do whatever needed to be done. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”

With the success of this year’s event, next year’s event is already on the calendar, and more world-class clinicians have already committed to participate. Registration for bands is open, and the first eight bands to register will be guaranteed a spot. Contact for more info.

By the Numbers

• 5 high school jazz bands
• About 100+ high school students
• 4 professional clinicians
• 20 Bethel student helpers
• 5 Bethel staff/faculty members
• 277 concert attendees and participants