Festival events dedicated to Bill Evans and jazz

Performances from alumni, faculty and student jazz ensembles, master classes taught by guest artist Mary Fettig and an art exhibition on musician and alumnus Bill Evans are scheduled for the 17th annual “BIll Evans Jazz Festival.”
File Photo/The Lion’s Roar

The 17th annual “Bill Evans Jazz Festival” offers a week of events dedicated to jazz.

“We have all been working very hard to prepare for the Bill Evans festival and to honor the legacy and memory of the great Bill Evans,” said Lecturer of Double Bass Dr. John Madere. “We would love to have a strong representation by the student body of SLU. Who knows, maybe they could be honored with a festival of their own someday after their time at Southeastern is over.”

The festival includes performances by jazz ensembles from April 11 to April 14. With the exception of the Alumni Jazz Ensemble’s performance on Wednesday, April 11 and the Faculty Jazz Trio’s performance with guest artist Mary Fettig on Friday, April 13, events during the festival are free to attend.




“The festival features performances by student, faculty and alumni groups,” said Madere. “There will also be several area high school jazz bands and small groups performing as part of the Louisiana Association for Jazz Education. The high school groups have submitted their programs and are in preparation for their performance. The student groups at SLU have been rehearsing as well.”

Fettig shared her thoughts on the festival honoring Bill Evans.

“I was thrilled to hear Bill Evans was an alum of SLU, and the festival is named for him,” said Fettig. “I am a longtime fan of his and had the fortune to see him play live in concert in San Francisco. He was such an innovator in modern jazz piano playing. I often remark to myself when I listen to piano players that I hear that Bill Evans influence.”

Anyone not familiar with jazz or jazz pianist Bill Evans is encouraged to attend.

Lecturer of Percussion Michael Brothers said, “It’s a chance to learn, to hear the music, to be exposed to the music because over the course of the four days. It’s gonna be a lot of different forms of jazz within the umbrella of jazz. So, there’ll be some Latin-flavored things, some rock-flavored things. There’ll be some straight ahead jazz-flavored things, so there’ll be a pretty broad base.”

Leading up to the festival, jazz ensembles have been rehearsing for their performances.

“The jazz band is rehearsing the charts provided by guest artist Mary Fettig in preparation for her arrival,” said Madere. “The student combo is finalizing their set list for their performance on the Thursday night of the festival. There will be several original student compositions on this concert, and the faculty combo has also been preparing for the Friday concert featuring Mary Fettig. This will feature tunes on one of Mary’s CDs as well as one of my compositions.”

Besides performing, Fettig will also teach master classes throughout the week.

“I find that the groups I work with are always different, so I look forward to finding out where we might take it,” said Fettig. “Bottom line is that I hope to inspire the students to work to their ultimate potential by sharing my approach.”

The festival will be an opportunity to hear jazz music from different groups. One such performance will bring alumni back to perform.

“We have an Alumni Jazz Ensemble that performs, so several alumni from the region are coming back to perform,” said Brothers. “The former director of the jazz program here many years ago, Ron Nethercutt, I’ve been able to get him to come. He’s been long retired. He actually lives in the Philippines now, but he still has very strong ties to the school and to a lot of the jazz alumni, and he agreed to come back and do the alumni jazz ensemble for one more year.”

High school groups are scheduled to perform on Friday, April 13 and Saturday, April 14.

“There’s some very good student groups in this area,” said Brothers. “Fontainebleau High School for example over in Covington, they have one of the best high school jazz ensembles not only in the state but in the region. They’re really a phenomenal group, and the director’s an excellent musician and teacher.”

The Contemporary Art Gallery will hold an exhibit dedicated to Evans’ history during the festival.

“There’s some video presentations about Bill,” said Brothers. “The university also houses a small archive dedicated to Bill. So, last year we were able to get a couple things on loan to display, so it’s all part of celebrating who he was. So for somebody who may not know who he is or maybe just know his name in passing, the art exhibit alone is a chance to go learn some more.”