Jazz enthusiasts just might be in the presence of a future star at Elmhurst College's annual jazz festival this weekend.
In its 45th year, the prestigious gathering is the second-oldest of its kind, drawing some of the best collegiate musicians from throughout the country -- and even internationally this year.
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What: Elmhurst College Jazz Festival
When: Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 23-26
Where: Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel, 190 Prospect Ave., Elmhurst
Cost: $5 to $30
Info: (630) 617-5534 or elmhurst.edu/jazzfestival
"You might be hearing a future star out there when you hear some of these college groups," said Doug Beach, the college's director of jazz studies. "People are going to hear a lot of great music and a mixture of great performances in an educational setting."
The long weekend opens Thursday with a new addition -- a high school invitational -- followed by college and professional performances throughout the rest of the weekend.
Featured artists this year include the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band, Jeff Hamilton Trio, Mark Colby, Frank Greene, Denis DiBlasio and The Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
The festival begins at 12:30 p.m. Thursday with big bands performing from five high schools -- Champaign Central High School, John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, St. Charles North High School, Wheeling High School and York Community High School in Elmhurst.
Following their performances, they'll be critiqued in a clinic by the Jeff Hamilton Trio. The trio, joined by the Elmhurst College Jazz Band, then will perform at 4:30 p.m.
During the rest of the weekend, 38 college groups will take the stage, hailing from throughout the country and even from the Czech Republic. They'll begin at 11:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
Friday evening, Mineral Area College, University of Minnesota-Morris and Kent State University take the stage beginning at 7:30 p.m., followed by a performance by the Jeff Hamilton Trio.
The Saturday evening session begins at 7:30 p.m. with performances by Purdue University, Millikin University and Elmhurst College. The featured performance is A Tribute to Maynard Ferguson: The University of North Texas One O'clock Lab Band, directed by Steve Wiest and featuring Mark Colby, Denis DiBlasio and Frank Greene.
The fest concludes Sunday with a performance at 4:30 p.m. by the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
Years ago, high schools participated in the festival when there were fewer college groups. Today, there's a long waiting list to get in. The educational experience is unparalleled, Beach said.
"It's huge, just the fact that you can get instant feedback on your performance from these world-renowned musicians," Beach said. "We're excited to be able to put it back in place with some tweaks of what we did 25 years ago."
The student-run festival is one great big learning experience for students participating -- whether they're volunteers organizing activities or they're sitting and listening to each other play, said Rachel Peterson, 21, a senior from Roscommon, Mich., who is one of the festival's two student managers.
"Jazz is a very specific art form, but there are so many differences to it. It shows everybody's personal style of music," Peterson said. "With jazz, there's different styles of improvising and playing. You can tell who a person listens to by how they play."
She and many others will be listening carefully.
"In general, you can just sit back and enjoy the music, but when you're educated about jazz music it changes how you listen," Peterson said. "I think that changes a performance for a person."
Past professionals who have appeared at the festival include Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Cannonball Adderley, Thad Jones, Clark Terry and many more.
Ticket prices vary from event to event and range from $5 to $30.
For a complete list of performance times and ticket prices, call (630) 617-5534 or visit elmhurst.edu/jazzfestival.