Apr 26, 2024 - Music

University of Arkansas works with nonprofit to bring in jazz musicians

Illustration of a treble clef made out of a pencil.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The University of Arkansas and the Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society are launching an artist-in-residence program that will encourage guest musicians to perform and work with students.

Why it matters: Guest artists spend more time with students, who can learn from rehearsing and workshopping with them, and seeing them perform, music professor Jake Hertzog told Axios.

Historically, guest musicians sometimes can only stay long enough to speak to one class.

  • "One of the most profound experiences as a music student is to see artists up close," Hertzog said.

The big picture: Rapidly expanding NWA has a growing appetite for jazz, Robert Ginsburg, founder of the Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society, told Axios. And more opportunities for school-aged pupils to become music students in college is helping build a pipeline of musicians.

  • The nonprofit organization started a youth jazz ensemble for high school-age kids eight years ago, but it has also accepted requests from younger participants wanting to join. Each year, roughly 16-21 students rehearse with jazz professionals for 11 weeks and then perform.
  • The university began offering a degree in jazz performance in 2019, and Fayetteville High School started a jazz band a few years ago.

What they're saying: While jazz isn't as widely popular as some other genres, "the people who are really into it are dedicated to keeping it alive," Ginsburg said.

  • The artist-in-residence program helps the university and community to work together to create more exposure to the genre, and more people might acquire a taste for it if they're exposed to it.

How it works: A committee made up of representatives from the Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society and the university's music department will select the artists for the residency program, which will cover their expenses to stay for a week or so. The plan is to have one each academic year, Hertzog said.

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