By Sue Moore
“It’s a great honor to have the Western Jazz Quartet (WJQ) come back to Vicksburg to perform again,” said Tim Fuller, the Vicksburg High School’s performing arts center manager. The quartet will present a jazz concert on Tuesday, September 15 at 8 p.m. in the Center.
“They were here in 2008 and over 400 in the audience gave the performers a standing ovation when they finished the concert because they were such terrific entertainers. This is a newly constituted group with only bassist Tom Knific still a member of the quartet. He is a stalwart in Western Michigan University’s (WMU) music department, having concertized all over the world,” Fuller explained.
The new members, Andrew Rathbun on sax, Jeremy Siskind on piano, and Keith Hall on drums, are also from the WMU School of music. The resident faculty ensemble from WMU combines performing and teaching as they promote jazz music and jazz education. They will spend a full day before the concert working with Vicksburg High School’s band members as part of their mission to educate and work with young people.
Their appearance in Vicksburg is free to the public and the school system. The Quartet has been honored with a Chamber Music America residency partnership award which allows them to go into schools to build audiences for classical/contemporary, jazz and world chamber music through residency projects. Works that they will cover with the high school musicians will be showcased by the students at the public performance the following week.
Fuller worked through Adam Schumaker of the Gilmore Keyboard festival to bring the Western group to Vicksburg. “We have had a tie-in with the Gilmore ever since we raised the funds to purchase the Steinway grand piano,” Fuller said. “With their help and the community so generous with providing the $80,000 to purchase the piano, we have hosted performers from the Gilmore Keyboard Festival ever since. They even helped us purchase the piano; Karla Stubblefield, myself and Steve Zagree from Western went to the Steinway showroom in New York City to choose which piano we wanted. We set our sights on getting the very best for the money and everyone who comes to perform here on the Steinway just loves it.”
“The WJQ faculty members are so approachable through their workshops,” Fuller enthused. “They are teachers first, maximizing what the students will get out of this exposure. It will showcase our jazz bands in concert, which is wonderful training for them.”
The WJQ was founded in 1974. In the U.S., it has performed from Boston to Los Angeles, and tours regularly worldwide. Its members also tour as artistic ambassadors for the U.S. Department of State including Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Poland, Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia. They recently returned from a residency in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Performing Arts Center will also host a Gilmore Family Concert in March and a young artist award winner in May when the Gilmore Keyboard Festival is ongoing in Kalamazoo.