TCU celebrates 35th Jazz Festival

Capturing the rhythm and soul of jazz music has become a long-standing tradition of the annual TCU Jazz Festival, and the new director of Jazz Studies said he planned to uphold this tradition. 

In July 2011, Joseph Eckert was appointed director of Jazz Studies in the TCU School of Music after the previous director, Curt Wilson, retired from TCU after 35 years as educator and founder of the annual TCU Jazz Festival. The 35th Annual TCU Jazz Festival, which has its debut Friday, will be Eckert’s first festival as director.

“Having such a popular and lasting event, such as the TCU Jazz Festival allows the department to evaluate its successes and make improvements on its weaknesses,” he said. 

Eckert has made new additions to the festival as the director, such as introducing a quintet component and establishing a jazz clinic to be taught by the festival guest artist, Chris Vadala, for the middle and high school jazz bands participating, he said.

The number of middle and high school jazz bands has steadily increased over the years as the popularity of the event has grown, Eckert said. Last year there were 19 jazz bands, and this year 28 jazz bands are scheduled to perform Saturday while being judged by a panel of ten professional musicians, he said.

“The festival is fundamental for recruiting in the jazz department, which is why having a large representation of middle and high school bands is important,” Eckert said. 

The jazz festival was an opportunity for the Jazz Studies program at the university to shine and it gave important visibility to the students and the department, he said. 

“This is the biggest event of the year for the jazz program. Students have been working really hard and this is the culmination of all their work,” he said.

Professor of music theory and jazz improvisation Joey Carter said the jazz program would stand out with scheduled concerts by the TCU Faculty Jazz Combo and the TCU Jazz Ensembles.“One of the biggest challenges of a jazz ensemble is the aspect of improvisation, which is a true characteristic of jazz music,” he said. 

Chike Okaro a second-year graduate student agreed that improvisation is a challenge. But he said it was his favorite quality about jazz, because it allowed more communication on stage and gave more opportunity to be expressive. 

Okaro said he had high hopes for the festival this weekend because of the great amount of interest displayed by the middle and high school bands participating and the dedication and practice by the TCU Jazz Ensembles. 

“I will measure the success of the festival by looking on stage and seeing all the bands having fun and owning their music, not by how many people we can fit into an auditorium,” he said.

35th Annual TCU Jazz Festival

When: Friday – Saturday

Where: Ed Landreth Auditorium and PepsiCo Recital Hall

Admission: $10 per day

Tickets are available at the door or in advance by calling 817-257-7640.

Visit for a detailed performance lineup.