Sam Houston State University’s 49th Annual Jazz Festival took place in the Lowman Student Center Ballroom on Friday and Saturday, April 3-4. The festival is known in Texas as the “Oldest Jazz Festival in the State” and featured John Fedchock, a legendary international jazz trombonist.
The events on Friday included John Fedchock on the trombone along with the SHSU faculty Jazz Quintet, a free performance at the Stardust Room. The evening was a fun introduction for the events of the lively festival.
Starting at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, those from the SHSU jazz department, students from Kingwood, Brazoswood, Klein Oak, and Spring High Schools showcased their work and attended clinic sessions. The day was full of competitions and opportunities for these students to learn by watching their peers.
The summation of the festival took place at 7:30 p.m. and began with a bang as the Brazoswood High School let their talent loose, leaving the audience thrilled for the last segment. Under the direction of Jim Koch, the students took home the “best high school band” award . Numerous awards were presented by Aric Shneller, SHSU’s new assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies, to individual high school students and participating bands with exceptional talent.
After the awards were presented, Fedchock was welcomed with warm applause as he played with the SHSU Ensemble. Fedchock joined with the band to present an unforgettable presentation. Starting with “Unparliamentary Language,” by Alan Baylock, the talented jazz artist with the band had the audience tapping their feet, nodding their heads, and smiling uncontrollably. In that moment, everyone in the ballroom was in love with jazz.
The evening continued with “The Great Escape,” a soothing “Nightshades,” and “Breakthrough” all by Fedchock, followed by the exquisite piece from the film noir, “Laura” (Mercer/Raskin, arranged by Fedchock), “J Birds,” and “Latin Import” by Fedchock.
Stephen Buescher, the lead trombonist, had the honor of playing along side Fedchock during a piece. Buescher said, “It was really intense to play with Fedchock, but there wasn’t any pressure to impress, considering that he’s the best.”
Regardless, Buescher did not only impress with his mad jazz skills, but with his attitude during the performance. Watching artists like Buescher who are passionate about their music, the audience was involved to a greater degree.
Contributing to the excitement of the Jazz Festival, Schneller is doing a magnificent job in his new position. His enthusiasm and energy added life to the ensemble Saturday night, not to discredit the students. Having worked with several other universities, including numerous opportunities he has received in New York City, he is sharing his knowledge with students as he directs the jazz band, teaches improvisation, directs the jazz festivals, and coordinates the Jazz Studies program.
From the upbeat “The Great Escape,” to the calming nature of “Nightshades,” Fedchock was and is an inspiration to all students with an interest in jazz. Famous for touring with the Woody Herman’s “Thundering Herd,” as well as being an exceptional soloist and writer, Fedchock has lived out his dream, showing that anything is possible for those dedicated.