Kansas Wesleyan’s Department of Music announced the lineup for its 2023 Jazz Festival Monday. The event features multiple performances across three days – March 20-22 – the majority of which involve guest artist, composer and saxophonist Rick Hirsch.
Hirsch is an award-winning composer, arranger and saxophonist who began his career as personal music copyist for Bob Mintzer and Toshiko Akiyoshi. He has written music for jazz icons Yusef Lateef, Tito Puente and the Yellowjackets, as well as for the Penn State Blue Band. Hirsch has an active teaching studio and makes frequent appearances as a guest conductor. He holds degrees from UMass-Amherst and North Illinois.
The KWU faculty jazz group, Sharp Eleven, opens the festival March 20 with a 7 p.m. performance in the Student Activities Center. Department Chair Dr. James McAllister will be on saxophone, Steve Lueth plays piano, Dean Kranzler is on drums and Gustaf Applequist ’14 joins on double bass. Vocalist Michelle Cardinal Dolan, KWU’s director of development, stewardship and alumni, will join the group for several selections.
The following evening, March 21, at 7 p.m. in Sams Chapel, marks the debut of the Salina Area All-Star Big Band. This group comprises talented musicians from across the region, who will perform many of Hirsch’s compositions. Hirsch will conduct the group.
The final day of the festival sees Hirsch work with visiting high school and middle school jazz bands, as well as KWU students. That evening’s 7 p.m. performance in Sams Chapel will include Great Bend High School Jazz Ensemble, conducted by Grant Mathews, and the Salina Central High School Jazz Ensemble, conducted by Guillermo Rodriguez.
“This event is a great opportunity for us to bring a world-class artist and composer to Salina,” said McAllister. “My hope is that this festival becomes an annual event, to help the region celebrate and showcase this truly American art form.”
All of the concert performances are free and open to the public.