Today@Sam Article

Annual Jazz Festival To Showcase Students, Professionals

March 27, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Tricia Sims

The School of Music will host the 7th annual Sam Houston State University Bill Watrous Jazz Festival March 31 through April 1 at the Gaertner Performing Arts Center.

The festival, originally known as the SHSU Jazz Festival, has the distinction of being the oldest in the state of Texas—59-years and running, according to Director of Jazz Studies Aric Schneller.

Bill Watrous

The festival was renamed in 2011 to honor legendary jazz trombonist Bill Watrous and is one of the select artist-named jazz festivals in the United States.

“Jazz is one of America's unique musical art forms, and it is alive and very strong in Huntsville, Texas,” Schneller said.

The two-day event will include free performances from college, high school and junior high school jazz bands.

The jazz bands will perform at 30-minute intervals throughout both days starting at 9 a.m.

Division ratings will appear on each band's critique sheet provided by nationally renowned jazz educators David Caffey, David Craig, Andre Hayward, Will Kennedy, and Bob Morgan.

Awards will be announced and presented during the SHSU Jazz Ensemble closing performance.

“We have a wonderful show of two straight days of visiting high schools giving free concerts every 30-minutes during the day and two evening concerts with the country's top professionals,” Schneller said. “The music will be amazing. This is very special indeed because of Mr. Watrous's passion for jazz education.”

The closing concert and ceremony for each day will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will feature guest trombonists Watrous and Michael Dease with the SHSU Jazz Ensemble.

“They are world-class musicians and will amaze our audiences with their melodic and technical mastery,” Schneller said.

At the age of 77, Watrous is still in high-demand in the studios of Los Angeles and as a featured soloist in the United States and abroad. Schneller also happens to be a long-time friend of the legend.

Dease was a part of the historic first class of jazz students at The Juilliard School in New York City. He currently teaches jazz trombone at the renowned Michigan State University jazz program. He is originally from Augusta, Georgia.

According to Schneller, a piece that will be a standout is “The Takeover” by Dease. The SHSU Jazz Ensemble will preform the piece with him.

“It has one of the most difficult trombone soli sections my students have ever had to play,” Schneller said. “In fact, it's nearly impossible, but our students are rising to the challenge.”

Tickets for the closing concert on each day are available at the GPAC Box Office and online at General admission is $15, seniors are $12, students and children are $5.

In addition to the performances, Dease will hold a clinic each day for students at 1:15 p.m.

For more information about the two-day event, contact the School of Music at 936.294.1360 and visit the website for the SHSU Bill Watrous Jazz Festival at




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