MTSU’s Jacquet Jazz Festival Goes Virtual April 10 for Free Concerts, Workshops

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — MTSU’s renowned Illinois Jacquet Jazz Festival is coming to music lovers on Saturday, April 10, offering live performances and student workshops with 2020 Jazz Times Readers Poll saxophonist Gary Smulyan and MTSU School of Music jazz faculty and students. 
Streaming live — and free — from MTSU’s Wright Music Building with support from the Tennessee Arts Council, the daylong festival will culminate in a concert at 5:30 p.m. Central featuring Smulyan and MTSU’s Jazz Ensemble 1 to celebrate the student ensemble’s new CD, “The Middle Way.” 
Music lovers can find a complete festival schedule — and middle and high school musicians can register through Thursday, April 9, to participate in all the online music clinics via Zoom — at
The day’s concerts will be available at
Smulyan, who’ll discuss his career and offer sax and jazz improvisation suggestions at a music clinic at 3:30 p.m. Central Aug. 10, is a faculty member at the Amherst College and the artistic director at the Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
A repeat saxophonist of the year in multiple critics’ polls, Smuylan has released 10 of his own albums, been part of six Grammy-winning projects and performs with the famed Vanguard Jazz Orchestra as well as his own band and other artists.
“The concert and recording will showcase Smulyan’s abilities as a legendary performer and composer, recorded by our student artists,” said Jamey Simmons, director of MTSU’s Jazz Studies Program.
Simmons said the 5:30 p.m. concert also will include selections by MTSU graduate assistant saxophonist Miguel Alvarado; prominent jazz saxophonist Chris Potter and jazz pianist Horace Silver; and the festival’s honoree, tenor saxophonist Jean-Baptiste “Illinois” Jacquet.
MTSU’s annual Jazz Festival gives area middle and high school musicians an individual focus on the jazz style and the art of jazz improvisation. Students in MTSU’s jazz program and area schools’ jazz ensembles participate in concerts and clinics led by faculty members and guests throughout the event.
The Illinois Jacquet Foundation established a scholarship for MTSU jazz students in the artist’s name in 2014. The School of Music renamed the festival in 2016 to honor Jacquet, who died in 2004 after a storied 60-year-plus career that deeply influenced artists in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll.
MTSU’s Jazz Ensemble I is the program’s top performing student group. These experienced student musicians focus on cutting-edge works and big-band repertoire alongside new compositions and arrangements of their own.
One of the 10 cuts on their new CD, recorded in 2019 and 2020 through a partnership with the MTSU jazz program and the Department of Recording Industry, is available at
“‘The Middle Way’ features the Jazz Ensemble I in a variety of jazz styles, from the blues to big band, hard bop and funk to contemporary jazz, both instrumental and vocal,” Simmons said, praising recording industry graduate student Andrew Fiddler, the CD’s chief audio engineer, for his expertise in capturing the music.
“Highlighting the depth of our soloists and the group dynamics was a goal, and it succeeds to the benefit of the listeners. This recording shows off both our student artists and our music industry presence in Middle Tennessee.”