At the end of April, Wesleyan University’s concert halls will be filled with the sound of rhythm during the 16th Annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend, on Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29. The weekend will kick off with the traditional performance by the Wesleyan University Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Ensembles on Friday evening. New this year, on Saturday, there will be percussion clinics hosted by the Connecticut Percussive Arts Society, followed by an evening concert by Eli Fountain’s Percussion Discussion.
Jay Hoggard, professor of music and African American studies, explained the idea behind this ambitious project. “For the first time ever, we’re combining the Wesleyan student ensembles and the Connecticut Percussive Arts Society program,” he said. “We thought that would be an interesting combination, but instead of doing it over a series of multiple weekends, as we have done in the past, it’s going to be one day with multiple performances, about 20 minutes each.”
On Friday, April 28, the Wesleyan University Jazz Orchestra, directed by Hoggard, and the Wesleyan Jazz Ensembles, led by Noah Baerman, director and jazz pianist, and drummer Pheeroan akLaff, visiting assistant professor of music and private lessons teacher, will present an exciting evening of classic and contemporary jazz repertoire in Crowell Concert Hall. This 8 p.m. performance is free; tickets are not required.
On Saturday, April 29, the Wesleyan Music Department will host the annual meeting of the Connecticut Percussive Arts Society, featuring their “Day of Percussion,” an exploration of the world of percussion with Wesleyan ensembles, including the West African Drumming Ensemble, Taiko Drumming Ensemble, Korean Drumming Ensemble, Steelband, and WesWinds, as well as several visiting ensembles from Sacred Heart University, Western Connecticut State University, Eastern Connecticut State University, University of Connecticut, and Bedford Middle School. Performances and clinics will take place from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Crowell Concert Hall, World Music Hall, Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall, and the Usdan University Center.
“Our annual ‘Day of Percussion’ is a celebration of everything percussive in the state of Connecticut,” said Andy Kolar, president of the Connecticut Percussive Arts Society, and Assistant Director of Bands at Sacred Heart University. “We have some great clinicians, amazing performing ensembles, and a lot of sponsors to help make this the percussion-obsessed person’s heaven.”
Following the full day of clinics, Eli Fountain, acclaimed percussionist and composer, will present an evening of music starting at 8 p.m. in Crowell Concert Hall alongside a formidable cast of fellow jazz musicians including vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, Warren Smith, Bryan Carrott, Bobby Sanabria, Reggie Nicholson, and Lyndon Achee, and special guest woodwind player Patience Higgins.
Fountain described the concert as “a symphonic safari,” and the eight-piece ensemble plays an array of music. “The concert will be a journey through percussion,” he explained. “We’re not just an African ensemble or a jazz ensemble. We use everything that is available to us and we try to show the possibilities of the use of these instruments, since none are electric except the vibraphone.”
Tickets for both the Connecticut Percussive Arts Society Day of Percussion and Eli Fountain’s Percussion Discussion are available through the Wesleyan Box Office.