NCCU 28th Annual Jazz Festival shows off students, faculty and guests

April 19, 2018

Strike up the band — it’s time for the N.C. Central University’s 28th Annual Jazz Festival at N.C. Central University!

NCCU Director of Jazz Studies and associate professor Dr. Ira Wiggins started the festival in 1990 as a chance to let the students interact with professional jazz musicians from across the world here at home. Wiggins, an NCCU alum himself, has been working in the department for over 30 years.

“It’s good that [students] can have these experiences here so that when they get out in the real world, it’s not the first time they played on that level,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins’ inspiration for the festival came from experiences he had with guest artists during his time at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

“When I was a student here, we did not have guest artists,” Wiggins explained. “I know that they benefited me. I had to make that happen here.”

During the festival, students play alongside well-known jazz musicians with the opportunity to gain industry contacts. That way, Wiggins added, they have people outside the faculty in the field who can help them.

This year’s lineup includes Nate Smith + KINFOLK and the Russell Malone Quartet, who will be playing at the Durham Arts Council’s PSI Theatre downtown with NCCU’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble and (instrumental) Jazz Ensemble respectively.

However, students and guests won’t be the only ones in the spotlight: the jazz faculty concert is set for Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m.

“It’s a chance for us to practice what we preach,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins says his favorite part of the festival is the interaction between the artist and students while still watching the students play. It’s a good way to get students ready for collaboration in their careers as well as promote the jazz studies program as a whole.

“I always tell the students ‘I’m not here to teach you how to be a college student.’ You’re here. You’re already a college student,” Wiggins said. “I am here to train y’all on how to be a professional.”

NCCU’s jazz studies program and its products has been acclaimed both nation- and worldwide with performances at the Vienne Jazz Festival, New York City Jazz Festival @ Jazz at Lincoln Center and the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) festival in Toronto. Recently, the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble and assistant professor Lenora Helm Hammonds made the 60th Grammy Awards’ preliminary ballot for their 2017 album “Take Note.”

Tickets, parking and additional information can be found here.

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