Jazz in the Meadows will bring young performers together in Rolling Meadows

Jazz in the Meadows will bring young performers together in Rolling Meadows

  • From right, Hersey High School's A.J. Mikkelson, Michael Wostmann and Jimmy Rodriguez play at a previous Jazz in the Meadows festival, which returns Saturday, Feb. 29, to Rolling Meadows High School.

      From right, Hersey High School's A.J. Mikkelson, Michael Wostmann and Jimmy Rodriguez play at a previous Jazz in the Meadows festival, which returns Saturday, Feb. 29, to Rolling Meadows High School. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2017

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 2/26/2020 4:35 PM

The Midwest's largest high school jazz festival returns on Saturday, Feb. 29, to Rolling Meadows High School, only this year it celebrates a milestone.

This will be the 35th annual Jazz in the Meadows festival, and organizers say it has remained true to its mission -- bringing young jazz students together with professionals and college educators to heighten their level of performance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
The Lake Zurich High School Jazz Ensemble rocks the 32nd annual Jazz in the Meadows festival at Rolling Meadows High School.
  The Lake Zurich High School Jazz Ensemble rocks the 32nd annual Jazz in the Meadows festival at Rolling Meadows High School. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2017

The festival showcases more than 100 bands and combos, representing 60 schools from five states across the Midwest.

Local schools include Buffalo Grove -- the only school to participate all 35 years -- Antioch, Cary-Grove, Elk Grove, Deerfield, Fremd, Hersey, Hoffman Estates, Lakes, Lake Zurich, Loyola, McHenry, Mundelein, Naperville North, Palatine, Schaumburg, Warren and Wheeling high schools.

Middle schools from the area include Cooper in Buffalo Grove, Holmes in Wheeling and River Trails in Mount Prospect. Holmes Junior High School in Mount Prospect also will perform.

"Hopefully students take away a greater love and appreciation of jazz music," says Chris Buti, director of bands at Rolling Meadows High School.

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Student ensembles perform in eight different rooms around the school, giving audience members unlimited access to all genres of jazz, from big band and swing to Latin and blues, and with lots of improvisation.

"You get to hear a wide variety of very strong jazz programs," adds Buti, who is in his 21st year as director, but he gives much of the credit to the Rolling Meadows High School Music Boosters, who sponsor the show, and the hundreds of student and adult volunteers.

Bands compete in their respective classes, which are determined by school size. But the fest has grown to include middle school jazz bands, as well as a separate class for schools with more than one ensemble.

Key to its success over the years has been the caliber of its judges. They run the gamut and represent performers, private studio teachers, college and university directors, as well as junior high and high school directors and retired jazz band directors.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Each band performs a 15-minute set -- typically playing a variety of genres -- and receives written and audio feedback, along with a short clinic time with the judges.

Mundelein High School's Karl Kirkpatrick wails his solo as the Jazz Ensemble performs at the 32nd annual Jazz in the Meadows festival.
  Mundelein High School's Karl Kirkpatrick wails his solo as the Jazz Ensemble performs at the 32nd annual Jazz in the Meadows festival. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2017

The winner of each class gets to perform in the grand finale concert, this year following special guest artist Marquis Hill and his band the Blacktet. Hill is a renowned jazz trumpeter who also composes and performs with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra.

When students are not warming up in their assigned homerooms or performing, they can join jam sessions that run all day in the cafeteria.

"These are a bid draw to students and are unique to our festival," Buti adds.

Special guest artist and renowned trumpeter Marquis Hill will perform with his band the Blacktet at the 35th annual Jazz in the Meadows festival at Rolling Meadows High School.
Special guest artist and renowned trumpeter Marquis Hill will perform with his band the Blacktet at the 35th annual Jazz in the Meadows festival at Rolling Meadows High School. - Courtesy of Jazz in the Meadows

A noontime concert will feature Jeff Hedberg and his band C11. Hedberg is a Chicago-based jazz vocalist fluegelhorn player, who also teaches at Harper College and directs the Harper College Jazz Ensemble.

Jazz in the Meadows dates back to 1985, when the band director at Rolling Meadows, Len King, started the event with colleague George Southgate, a junior high band director in Rolling Meadows.

They aimed to fill the void left open when the Oak Lawn Jazz Festival folded after 25 years. Over the years, Jazz in the Meadows has established a reputation for excellence all its own.

• • •

35th annual Jazz in the Meadows festival

When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29

Where: Rolling Meadows High School, 2901 Central Road, Rolling Meadows

Cost: $15 per person, $10 for students and seniors for all-day pass; $35 family of four pass

Details: www.rmhsmusicboosters.com or rmhs.d214.org/rmhs-presents-the-35th-annual-jazz-in-the-meadows

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