Fri 3/16-Sun 3/18
For the better part of five decades, the Lakeland Jazz Festival has not only provided the area with topnotch live music, but also opened a door for high school musicians to explore the genre with professionals.
Lakeland Jazz Festival co-director David Sterner, who is also the Civic Jazz Orchestra director, said it’s the latter that still drives the event, which returns Fri 3/16-Sun 3/18 to Lakeland Community College’s Dr. Wayne L. Rodehorst Performing Arts Center in Kirtland.
“The festival started with the notion of trying to educate students at the high school level on the different disciplines of jazz, whether that’s improvisation or performing in correct style,” Sterner said.
“This year we’ll probably see 20 to 25 ensembles over the Friday and Saturday portions working with professionals from the industry. They’ll also perform for about 20 minutes and have the opportunity to work with professors who are associated with different colleges.”
What excites Sterner about that aspect of this year’s Lakeland Jazz Festival is that professors from outside of the region, such as the University of Cincinnati and Duquesne University, will be attending.
“It’ll be a different pool to draw from, different opinions, personalities to kind of hopefully encourage the students,” Sterner said. “That’s really the focus of the festival. The icing on the cake is that we’re able to offer a national artist and a regional band, and of course, an opportunity to present big band music on Sunday.”
The national act headlining Fri 3/16 at the festival is the Donald Harrison Quintet. Led by Harrison, the originator of the signature style Nouveau Swing, the group features an all-star New Orleans and New York City lineup.
Then on Sat 3/17 is “Madd for Tadd,” which is celebrating the birthday of Cleveland’s legendary composer Tadd Dameron. An all-star lineup of music professors from Northeast Ohio will be performing music from the bop artist’s catalog.
The festival ends on Sun 3/18 with a Big Band Matinee featuring the Lakeland Civic Jazz Orchestra and the Youngstown State University Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Quintet.
Sterner noted the one different aspect to this year’s Lakeland Jazz Festival is its timing.
“We moved the festival last year from February to March because of the weather,” Sterner said. “We had a couple of snowouts in previous years, so we figure we needed to move to warmer climates, but coincidentally now it’s St. Patrick’s Day Weekend.”
In order to accommodate the Celtic celebration, Sterner said the decision was made to flip the regional and national acts, which normally appear respectively on Friday and Saturday during the festival weekend. As for how St. Patrick’s Day and jazz mix, that remains to be seen. However, Sterner does have a plan.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to impact the festival, either positive or negative,” Sterner said. “If people are looking for things to do other than drink, certainly they can come out to the Jazz Fest. Also, it’s a 90-minute concert so you still have time to hit the bars afterwards.”