Professional sax player to attend Baker University Jazz Festival
Tenor saxophonist Eric Koppa is making a guest appearance for Baker University’s 14th annual Jazz Festival, but his brief stay in Baldwin City will hardly be a vacation.
Since his arrival Wednesday on campus, Koppa has been busy rehearsing Baker’s Jazz Band concert in preparation for a guest appearance during the festival’s opening concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Rice Auditorium. He’ll also work with musicians in the Jazz Band, and he’ll be the head judge for the 19 area high school bands participating in this year’s festival.
“Every year that I’ve done this I’ve had a professional jazz musician — someone who has kind of made a name for himself in the jazz world — come,” said J.D. Parr, Baker University professor of music. “That person works with the Baker jazz band for two days and then is the guest soloist on the concert Thursday night. He will basically do clinics, lessons, rehearse with the band, whatever I might need him for before the concert.”
The festival opens with the Thursday night concert and continues with high school band performances throughout Friday.
“It is mostly a day of high school bands coming from all around the area,” Parr said.
The bands will play their best on Rice Auditorium stage for three judges who critique them, including both criticisms and compliments, on a digital recorder. The judges will give the bands a rating of one, two or three, with one being the best. After one band performs, a judge follows that band to another location and works with them for a half hour in a clinic session while another band is on stage.
“(Koppa) will be the head judge on Friday along with three other judges who come locally,” Parr said.
Koppa said during the clinics when he is working with window of time, he liked to stress to the musicians the importance of playing stylistically correct, whether it be Latin music, swing music or even a ballad.
“Playing true to the style, as far as phrasing, is very important and is something I like to be tough on because it is something other than just the notes and the time, it is more of a style, or to the listeners, the essence of the music,” Koppa said.
The other judges include Bob Long, director of jazz at Missouri Western University,
Gary McCarty, a former band director and a drummer from Emporia, and Everett Freeman, a professional jazz pianist from Kansas City.
Although in the past some judges have returned annually to the Jazz Festival, this year every judge is new.
“I try to have different judges at least every three to four years because a lot of the same high school bands come back year after year, so I don’t want the bands to have a judge they had the year or two years before,” Parr said.
Judges take note of soloists who are exceptional throughout the day, and those students receive certificates of outstanding musicianship.
“At this skill level it is very important for a group or musician to play dynamics well. Also, being able to play a number of different styles well is also very important,” Koppa said.
The judges will also deliberate between the student soloists and make choice of the best soloist of the day. That student gets a $100 cash award.
The bands will play every half hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The concert Thursday and festival Friday are free and open to the public.