The Newberry College Jazz Festival is back

NEWBERRY — Newberry College will host its 64th jazz festival, after a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event will take place March 4-5 on the college campus, in conjunction with the South Carolina Band Directors Association’s 24th Jazz Performance Evaluation.

The weekend will include clinics and concerts with two all-state jazz ensembles, performances by middle and high school jazz bands from across South Carolina, and a special concert by the Newberry College Jazz Big Band featuring the artist guest Charlton Singleton.

“We are so excited to be able to host the state jazz festival again after not being able to last year,” said Jerry Gatch, Ph.D., director of bands at Newberry College. “This event is a great opportunity for middle school, high school and college students to grow as musicians and work with some of the greatest jazz educators of the moment.”

Throughout the weekend, 49 middle and high school jazz ensembles will each make three selections for the judges and receive a score. These performances will take place at various locations on campus from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and from 8:50 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. on Saturdays.

High school students from across South Carolina have been selected through competitive auditions to participate in two all-state jazz ensembles, led this year by internationally acclaimed jazz educators and writers Eric Richards and Mike Tamaro.

The Newberry College Jazz Big Band, under the direction of Gatch, will be joined by Grammy-winning musician Charlton Singleton. Hailing from Awendaw, a small fishing town in Charleston County, Singleton is a jazz teacher who co-founded and led the Charleston Jazz Orchestra from 2008 to 2018. In 2020, his Lowcountry Gullah quintet Ranky Tanky won a Grammy for his second album, “Good Time”. Singleton will join Newberry’s band on trumpet, but he is also fluent in piano, organ, violin and cello.

“We are beyond thrilled to have SC’s Charlton Singleton with us,” said Gatch. “He’s a really fantastic artist.”

In addition to Singleton, the college band will be joined by professional saxophonist Darius Starks ’16; clarinetist and flautist John Wagner, Ph.D, professor emeritus of music; trombonist Patrick Casey, Ph.D., assistant professor of music education; and pianist Wanda Neese, piano teacher.

All-state bands and the Newberry College Jazz Big Band will perform back-to-back beginning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Wiles Chapel. The college group will play the last at 1 p.m.

The festival and concerts are free and open to the public. Newberry College requires face coverings to be worn in all buildings on campus.

The Newberry College Jazz Festival is one of the oldest of its kind in the country, having started in 1958. The festival has been held in conjunction with the association’s event since 1998.

Willie J. Johnson