Jazz students who want to perform in front of a large audience now have their chance. Auditioning jam sessions begin March 14 and those who think they have talent are encouraged to try out for the opportunity to play at this year's GRandJazzFest.
Last August, West Michigan's first jazz festival celebrated its inaugural year with high attendance and beautiful weather. With that success under its belt, GRandJazzFest will be held again this summer and this time, it's happening over a two-day period on Aug. 17 and 18.
Steve Hilger, a local jazz musician whose band The Steve Hilger Jazz Quintet played at last year's festival, is excited that it's two days this year because "it demonstrates that there is a jazz community in Grand Rapids."
"It's fun to participate and exciting to be in on the ground level," he adds.
Hilger is also on GRandJazzFest's artist selection committee this year along with fellow musician Steve Talaga and West Michigan Jazz Society board member Eddie Tadlock. This committee and Founder Audrey Sundstrom wanted to have a way for young and/or unknown jazz musicians to participate in the festival and that's how the idea of the student set came about.
"One of our goals in year two of the festival is to increase the educational aspect -- to broaden awareness of jazz as a great American art form to diverse audiences and to provide a platform to celebrate up-and-coming jazz talent," says Sundstrom.
Students high school age and up who are studying jazz are invited to audition at Noto's Old World Italian Dining between 7-10 p.m. every other Thursday night beginning March 14. There is no fee to audition, and parents are asked to accompany anyone under 18.
Hilger, Talaga, and Randy Marsh or Evan Hyde will already be there performing as the TrioJazz band and they will play the first set. They will provide the drum set, keyboard, and amplifiers for students to use, but auditioning students are asked to bring their own guitar, bass, or horn. Student jazz singers are also invited to try out.
From now until the end of June, students are asked to attend the auditioning jam sessions as much as possible. They don't have to show up every other Thursday, but at least enough for Hilger and the other musicians to get to know them. The setting will be informal, so there is no need to sign up ahead of time. After the students play, Hilger will add their contact information to a list for the final selection.
"We're looking for the top student talent from the region to showcase at GRandJazzFest," says Hilger.
Around 5-10 students will be selected from those who've auditioned to perform in any or all of the 6-8 songs played on Aug. 18. This group of musicians, along with members of TrioJazz if needed, will kick off day two of GRandJazzFest at noon and also have a chance to perform solo during this time slot.
Hilger says the auditioning jam sessions are a good way for students to do more improvisational playing and "get over the fear of failure, which every musician has."
To find out more about GRandJazzFest or to audition as a student to play in this year's lineup, here is some information to get you started:
- Visit GRandJazzFest
online to find out more about this free, two-day jazz festival at Rosa Parks Circle Aug. 17 and 18.
- Audition with TrioJazz
at Noto’s Old World Italian Dining
at 6600 28th St. SE. The auditions take place every other Thursday night starting at 7 p.m., with the first audition happening on March 14.
- Contact Steve Hilger with any questions via email
or at 616.458.3600.
Source: Audrey Sundstrom, Founder of GRandJazzFest, and Steve Hilger, jazz musician and one of the festival's artist selection committee members.
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor
Images provided by GRandJazzFest.