A Journey Through Madison's Classical Music Scene
Nov 21, 2013
11:42 AM
Classically Speaking

A Jazzy Way to Kick Off the Holiday Season

A Jazzy Way to Kick Off the Holiday Season


NIU Jazz Ensemble with director Ronald Carter

By Sunday evening many of us will have re-lived more of the JFK tragedy than we might have cared to. Or we might be in the mood to celebrate a crucial Packers victory (or shake off another tough loss). Or maybe are wondering how we are ever going to survive the added stress of the suddenly looming holiday season.

The Madison Jazz Society and Sun Prairie Band Boosters have the perfect prescription: Head over to Sun Prairie High School by 7 p.m. and soak up what promises to be a spectacular jazz band doubleheader.

The headliners are the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble, directed by Ronald Carter and joined by guest bassist Rodney Whitaker. Since the group’s inception in 1969, the NIU Jazz Ensemble has performed and recorded with a veritable “who’s who” of jazz greats, with the legendary Dizzy Gillespie once dubbing them “my band.”

The opening act is one that will not be intimidated by the “stars,” the SPHS Jazz I band. Under Steve Sveum, this band has often sounded like junior jazz stars in the making, and they’ve proven it by going to the finals of the Essentially Ellington competition at New York City's Lincoln Center in seven of the last fourteen years. Sveum knows that this is a win-win circumstance, with Sunday night’s audience sure to enjoy both groups, and his kids getting an extra dose of inspiration and adrenaline. “Ron Carter is arguably the best jazz educator in the world," Sveum says. "He is able to get students excited about jazz in a way I have never seen anyone equal. Ron brings joy and expectation to our students and is very motivational. Just knowing Carter will be here brings out the best in our students. I am honored to call him a friend and owe much of my personal understanding of jazz, and success, to him.”

A day of clinics with the students will culminate in the concert at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and are available at the door. For more information, call 608-834-6780.

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About This Blog

Years before I contributed my first classical review to the Los Angeles Times in 1988, I started a class in music appreciation for adults that had one aim: to put a few cracks in the “ivory tower elitism” I found pervasive in the classical music world since my boyhood days. Whether as a critic, program annotator or band director, that goal has never changed. After all, Mozart and Beethoven and the gang wrote their music for people like you—not critics or professors!

After growing up in the suburbs of New York City, and spending twenty years in and around Los Angeles, the last twelve years here leave me more amazed than ever at the musical riches of Madison. I’m a cheerleader at heart, because I always think more people would become classical fans if they’d give it a chance—but I’m also quick to tell you when you’re not getting your money’s worth. Classically Speaking brings you as much news and as many reviews as possible, and I hope you’ll join me for a fabulous musical journey.

–  Greg Hettmansberger
Follow Greg on Twitter @ghettmansberger

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