Meet the guest artist for the ‘Bill Evans Jazz Festival’

Musician Mary Fettig will be the guest artist at the 17th annual “Bill Evans Jazz Festival” teaching master classes to high school and university students as well as performing with jazz ensembles. Courtesy of Michael Brothers

Musician Mary Fettig will perform and educate students as the guest artist for the 17th annual “Bill Evans Jazz Festival.” 

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the festival and particularly honored to be setting foot in the college Bill Evans attended,” said Fettig. “I’m very excited to play with student and faculty groups, and I love the workshop settings.”

Fettig joined the Stan Kenton Orchestra as the first female band member when she was 20 years old.




“It was a thrill of a lifetime when Stan asked me as I never thought it possible,” said Fettig. “What made it a bigger thrill was that it happened at Disneyland where dreams come true. I was a student at UCLA at the time, and the band was performing at Disneyland. I had been at his camps and playing first chair in the first band, so he knew me. When he saw me in the audience and came over and said he had been looking for me, I wanted to be in his band.”

Fettig shared her experience being a member of the band.

“I had no role models to emulate so had to figure it out on my own,” said Fettig. “There was no internet in 1973 to find videos of women playing jazz. As the first woman in a famous band, there was a lot of media interest, which I was also unprepared to navigate. I had just turned 20 and was thrust into the spotlight. Most days I had to do interviews. There were usually questions about being the only female on the bus, to which I would reply they were all like my brothers.”

Fettig discussed a challenge she faced in performing with the Stan Kenton Orchestra.

Fetting said, “Not having control over my free time was definitely the hardest part of being in the band, but getting to see the U.S. and Europe, playing seven nights a week in a different place every day was an exciting adventure. And the Kenton music was my favorite big band.”

Fettig recalled one of her favorite moments from performing.

“Although I’ve had many of those moments, what continues to stick with me is a tour with the great Brazilian guitarist and composer Toninho Horta,” said Fettig. “His chord harmony is very challenging, and the first couple of days, my goal was to make sure I played the chord progressions. The third night was when I was able to move to that next level where something takes over and magic happens. It was an incredibly exhilarating moment.”

Lecturer of Double Bass Dr. John Madere explained why Fettig was chosen to be the guest artist for this year’s jazz festival. 

“We have a rotation for the festival,” said Madere. “We alternate between a brass artist, rhythm section artist and woodwind artist.”

Lecturer of Percussion Michael Brothers shared his thoughts on the choice of Fettig as the guest artist.

“I’m very excited about her coming to be here,” said Brothers. “She’s done just about everything you can do in jazz, played with everybody, appeared at every major jazz festival in the world.”

Brothers discussed Fettig’s part in the festival.

“She’s also a very strong woodwind doubler,” said Brothers. “In addition to the master classes she’ll do for the high school students and the performances she’ll do with us, she’s also doing a separate class with all the university music major woodwind student. She’ll be quite busy when she’s here, but I hope people come out and hear her play because she’s a great player. The concerts we’re doing with her, she’ll be playing both alto and flute.”

When she was younger, Fettig performed in her school bands including Ygnacio Valley High School where the jazz band won the Monterey Jazz Festival high school competition in 1971. Fettig expresses her love of music through both performance and teaching.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher from a very young age and when I fell in love with music, knew that I wanted to be a band teacher,” said Fettig. “Girls didn’t dream of doing the things I do, so that wasn’t in my game plan. That all changed when I joined the Stan Kenton Orchestra as the first woman at the age of 20. Things evolved from there. I have managed to keep both loves of teaching and performing in balance.”

Fettig shared what she enjoys about music performance.

“I have the fortune to play in very diverse musical settings and love it all,” said Fettig. “I welcome the challenges of preparing the music and executing a good performance. I look forward to the camaraderie that goes with any musical setting both personally and musically. Jazz is my favorite because of the spontaneity of the music. I love the interactions with other band members and always rely on those musical dialogues to inform the development of my solos.”