School Jazz Bands to Participate in EIU Jazz Festival February 7-8 | Lifestyles

Eastern Illinois University will host the 61st annual EIU Jazz Festival on February 7-8.

Considered one of the best jazz festivals in Illinois, this annual event attracts young musicians from across the state. This year, nearly 24 different groups will perform. Hundreds of high school and college musicians will be on the Charleston EIU campus to hear great jazz performances and hone their musical skills. Junior high and high school musicians will learn from a wide range of professional jazz musicians and educators. This year’s special guest artist will be internationally renowned musician, composer and bandleader Marquis Hill.

The EIU Jazz Festival kicks off with an opening concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 7 in the Dvorak Concert Hall. On Saturday, students will have the opportunity to hone their musical skills by participating in a variety of clinics and competitive events. Clinics are led by a wide range of jazz educators and professional jazz musicians, as well as special performances.

From his early days as one of Chicago’s most exciting young trumpeters to his current status as an internationally acclaimed jazz artist, Hill has worked tirelessly to break down the barriers that divide musical genres. Contemporary and classical jazz, hip-hop and R&B to Hill are all essential elements of the deep African-American creative heritage of which he is a part.

“Everything comes from the same tree,” he says. “They just bloomed from different branches.”

Born in Chicago in 1987 and raised in the city’s culturally rich southern neighborhood, Hill began playing drums at age 4, before switching to trumpet in sixth grade. He attended Kenwood Academy High School, excelling in its revered jazz performance program. Hill earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Northern Illinois University and his master’s degree in jazz pedagogy from DePaul University. While in college, he did gigs and sessions around Chicago, playing with and absorbing the wisdom of Fred Anderson, Ernest Dawkins and Von Freeman. Hill quickly gained a reputation around town as an incredibly gifted trumpeter with a soulful, highly textured tone.

In 2014, Marquis Hill won the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz competition and became a presence on the world stage virtually overnight. Maintaining a nonstop touring schedule with its longtime working group Blacktet, the band and its bandleader earned praise from the Chicago Tribune when the newspaper called the band “a remarkably polished and immensely engaging ensemble.”

“If you love jazz music and want to find out what’s happening on the jazz scene today, the EIU Jazz Festival opening concert on Friday night is something you won’t want to miss,” said Dan Crews, director of programming at the Doudna Fine Arts Center. “It’s exciting that an artist of Marquis status is visiting us at the EIU and sharing his knowledge with all the young musicians attending the festival.

Tickets for the opening concert featuring Marquis Hill Blacktet and the EIU Jazz Ensemble are priced at $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors (62+), $10 for students and can be purchased online at or at the Doudna Fine Arts Center box office. The opening hours of the box office are Tuesday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and one hour before the scheduled performance.

The Doudna Fine Arts Center is located at 1860 South 7th Street in Charleston on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. Convenient free parking is located near the Center for Fine Arts. To arrange accommodations for those requiring special assistance, contact Doudna Fine Arts Patron Services at 217-581-3110 or The EIU Jazz Festival is supported by the Consolidated Communications Artists Series, which guarantees great jazz performances.

Ada J. Kenney