Tag: Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend

Jazz Celebration Weekend honors Sturm, adds events for campus community

The late Fred Sturm will be remembered during this weekend’s Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. He started the annual weekend jazz event at Lawrence 40 years ago.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The annual Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend, a staple of the jazz program in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music for four decades, will be held Nov. 5 and 6 with a bit of a twist.

The 40th annual event comes with adjustments made to adhere to pandemic protocols. The two headline concerts in Memorial Chapel will be open only to the campus community, but the concerts will be livestreamed so the public can participate.

High school and middle school music students also will be accessing workshops virtually on Saturday.

And the twist comes with new involvement from the full campus community—an assortment of live workshops made available on Saturday to students, faculty, and staff, ranging from songwriting to dance to jazz singing.

“We have a lot of great things happening both virtually and on campus for this special 40th Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend,” said Patty Darling ’85, director of the award-winning Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble.

Find more on Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend here.

The Jazz Ensemble will join composer Dave Rivello in presenting a concert of his works at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Chapel.

Dave Rivello

Ike Sturm + HEART, with featured guest Donny McCaslin, will be in concert in the Chapel at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Sturm is the son of the late Fred Sturm, who helped launch and lead Lawrence’s jazz program during his more than 25 years on the Lawrence faculty. He passed away in 2014 following a long battle with cancer.

Saturday’s concert will be a special celebration of Fred Sturm’s legacy.

Ike Sturm + HEART

Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, said the 40th anniversary is a special time to honor everything Sturm brought to Lawrence. Adding the campus-wide workshops was done with Sturm in mind.

“Fred Sturm loved jazz, improvisation, and the community it created,” Pertl said.

He launched Jazz Celebration Weekend in 1981 as a non-competitive music event, bringing high school and middle school students to campus to play, learn about, and celebrate jazz. The pandemic has altered things this year, but it has not dimmed the enthusiasm.

“We will still have our two amazing evening concerts, but since we couldn’t welcome the 1,000 high school musicians who usually attend, we came up with the idea to honor Fred by making the event a campus celebration of jazz and improvisation and musical exploration for our entire Lawrence community,” Pertl said. “In her matriculation convocation, President Carter urged us to find comfort with discomfort, to try new things, dive into new experiences. Here is our chance to try improvisatory dance, songwriting, jazz singing, Deep Listening, samba drumming, Balinese gamelan, a big band session for anyone who plays any instrument, and an improvising orchestra for classical strings players who have never improvised before. What better way to take a break from the stresses of eighth week than to move and groove and sing and dance. Fred would be beaming from ear to ear, and I can’t think of a better way to honor his love of jazz and his legacy as a virtuoso educator.”

Ticket information for the Friday and Saturday evening concerts can be found at the Lawrence Box Office.

There also will be Saturday concerts featuring the Lawrence University Jazz Combos and the Lawrence University Jazz Band. The Jazz Combos perform from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Harper Hall. The Jazz Band will perform from 1 to 2 p.m. in Room 163 of the Music-Drama Center. Both have free admission. You can access the livestream for the Jazz Band and Jazz Combos here.

The new workshops added this year for the campus community have free admission.

“Everyone on campus is welcome,” Darling said. “You need not play an instrument to attend.”

The Saturday workshops include:

  • Dance Collective with Margaret Paek, 10 a.m.-noon in Esch Studio;
  • Songwriting with Loren Dempster, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in Shattuck 156;
  • Deep Listening with Brian Pertl and Leila Ramagopal Pertl, 2-3 p.m. in Shattuck 156;
  • Fundamentals of Jazz Singing with Janet Planet and John Harmon, 2-3 p.m. in Harper Hall;
  • Improv for All with Patty Darling and Lawrence jazz students, 3-4 p.m. in Shattuck 156;
  • Jazz for Strings with Matt Turner, 3-4 p.m. in Shattuck 163;
  • Balinese Gamelan with Sonja Downing and Dewa Adnyana, 3-4 p.m. in Mursell House;
  • Samba Drumming with the Sambistas, 4-5 p.m. in Shattuck 163.

“Several of these workshops and all of the concerts will be livestreamed so our Jazz Weekend high school and middle school students and directors can participate as well,” Darling said. “We are excited about this opportunity to bring everyone together to create, connect and explore, as well as showcase some of the great things happening in our Conservatory.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Studio Orchestra concert featuring 100-plus musicians to highlight Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend

Tarrel Nedderman takes part in a Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble rhythm section rehearsal in advance of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. The LUJE will be part of the Studio Orchestra concert on Nov. 8. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

When the annual two-day Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend kicks off at Lawrence University on Friday, it will be, per usual, a celebration of all things jazz.

But this year’s 39th annual event will be a celebration beyond that, a nod to the jazz program’s rich history in the Conservatory, the wide and deep range of student talent across the Conservatory, and the cherished nature of student-faculty collaborations.

The weekend is focused on jazz education, with students from more than 30 middle and high schools on campus to learn, listen, and practice. But the highlights each year are two public performances in Memorial Chapel. This year features the Lawrence University Studio Orchestra Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the Miguel Zenon Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The concerts are sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Members of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra rehearse in Shattuck Hall.
Members of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra rehearse in advance of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. The LSO will join forces with the Jazz Ensemble for a Studio Orchestra concert Nov. 8 in Lawrence Memorial Chapel. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Friday’s massive music celebration

The Studio Orchestra is a combination of Lawrence’s Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra, bringing more than 100 musicians to the stage. It also includes contributions from a number of Conservatory faculty members.

It’s a music project that has been talked about for a long time. It’s been a decade or more since something like this has been tried.

“The whole idea kind of evolved,” said Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE). “We’ve wanted to combine LUJE and the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra (LSO) for a couple of years now, and when we got together last spring we started out by exploring studio orchestra repertoire.”

Darling, Director of Jazz Studies Jose Encarnacion, Director of Orchestral Studies Mark Dupere, and Director of Bands Andrew Mast all bought in. So did the student musicians and other faculty. Difficult logistics aside, enthusiasm across the Conservatory has continued to grow as the weekend has drawn closer.

“I think both of our groups can learn a great deal from each other even as we work in such different styles,” Dupere said. “I’ve always been drawn to the immediacy of musical expression that jazz performance tends to emit. And in the end, it is just so much fun.”

It was also seen as an opportunity to honor Fred Sturm, the late composer and jazz studies director who founded Lawrence’s Jazz Celebration Weekend in 1981 and set the stage for an event that would bring in such notable performers as Bobby McFerrin, Dizzy Gillespie, Diana Krall, and Branford Marsalis, among others.

“One piece that we absolutely had to include was Terlingua by Fred Sturm,” Darling said of the repertoire for Friday’s concert. “It is so beautiful. We wanted to honor Fred, as he was the founder of Jazz Celebration Weekend and also head of the jazz department for many years, a world-renowned jazz composer and educator, and a dear friend, mentor, and inspiration to us and so many people. From there, we kept expanding the collaboration to involve more faculty and students.”

For more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, see here.

José Encarnación, assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies, works with students during a Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble rehearsal. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

The Friday concert will feature works from Sturm, Chuck Owen, Duke Ellington and others. Besides the LUJE and LSO, there will be contributions from the Faculty Jazz Group. It should be a treat for an audience that will include hundreds of middle and high school musicians.

“Not only will they hear a 108-plus-piece studio orchestra with beautiful colors not often used in big band rep, they will also get to experience incredible jazz improvisation by the Faculty Jazz Group — the communication, the connections, free improvisation, in the moment, things that make jazz so exciting,” Darling said.

Getting them all on stage at once might prove to be the biggest challenge.

“Not only are there so many people to fit, but it is also difficult to seat the musicians in a way that they all can hear well,” Dupere said. “In the end, we’ve placed the rhythm section — bass, drums, guitar, and piano — in the middle of the ensemble so that they form a nucleus that the rest of the studio orchestra can gather around and play off of.”

Preparing for the concert has been a logistical juggling act, with smaller group rehearsals interspersed with larger sessions. There have been a lot of moving pieces over the past few weeks.

“The soloists with the rhythm section, the LSO woodwinds with LUJE, our LUJE pianist with Janet Planet and strings — all these components were prepared independently, and now we are in final prep with the combined rehearsals,” Darling said.

It all comes together on Friday night.

For details on jazz offerings at Lawrence, see here.

Portrait of Miguel Zenon sitting with his saxophone.
Miguel Zenon will lead the Miguel Zenon Quartet in a Nov. 9 concert at Lawrence Memorial Chapel, the second night of the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend.

Saturday’s concert features a saxophone innovator

Come Saturday, the audience will get to hear and experience what is making Miguel Zenon such a rising star. The saxophonist from San Juan, Puerto Rico, has multiple Grammy nominations and Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships on his resume already.

He’ll lead the Miguel Zenon Quartet in a concert mixing Latin American folkloric music and jazz.

“His music, artist, and genius,” Encarnacion said of what makes the Zenon Quartet special. “They are one unit in complete alignment with the universe.”

In advance of the concert, Zenon will be doing an open sound check and Q&A from 5 to 6 p.m. at Memorial Chapel, a chance for Lawrence musicians and visiting students to interact with him.

“It’s very important that our students get the opportunity to interact with an artist of this caliber,” Encarnacion said. “It is so valuable in so many ways — as a performer, composer, music business person, improviser, entrepreneur, and educator. Miguel can speak to our students and faculty about his experiences and perspectives on all these aspects of being a professional musician.”

Encarnacion said he first encountered Zenon in the early 1990s on a visit to Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, to see an old high school saxophone teacher. The teacher wanted to show off one of his talented young musicians.

“He said, ‘Come here, I want to introduce you to one of my students. This guy is going to be amazing; his name is Miguel Zenon.’ He was right.”

Zenon has released 11 albums through the years and has toured or recorded with the likes of Charlie Haden, Fred Hersch, and The Mingus Big Band, among others.

“I love the way Miguel conceptualizes traditional or folkloric music from Puerto Rico with jazz music,” Encarnacion said. “I love all his recordings. They are always fresh, rooted in the tradition but always moving forward with new sounds, rhythmic complexities, and adventurous musical stories.”

Admission to the Friday and Saturday concerts at the Chapel will be $25-$30 ($20-$25 for seniors, free for students).

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu