LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Music will be celebrating a major milestone this month with a celebration and concert.
The KU Jazz 50th Anniversary Celebration will commemorate 50 years of the “official” jazz program — and the “unofficial” bands that existed beforehand. The event will feature two concerts highlighting alumni of the KU Jazz Studies Program, both taking place at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center of Kansas
On Oct. 28, current performers for KU Jazz Ensemble I will present a tribute to saxophonist and woodwind artist Gary Foster, with guest soloists Steve Houghton (drums), Matt Otto and Paul Haar (saxophones), Ron McCurdy (trumpet), Jeff Harshbarger (bass) and others. Foster, a 1962 graduate of KU and a native of Leavenworth, is one of the most celebrated jazz and commercial music artists from the Los Angeles scene, with performance and recording credits including Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme along with a list of some of the most important jazz artists of the past 50 years. He also appears on more than 500 motion picture soundtracks.
The following evening Oct. 29, KU alumni from the past 50 years will perform in big bands and a vocal jazz ensemble, and they will be directed by the program’s four directors—Robert Foster (the founder of the program in 1972), James Barnes, Ron McCurdy and Dan Gailey.
Tickets are available at lied.ku.edu, or by phone at (785) 864-2787.
Sponsors include Reach Out Kansas Inc. and the Zakoura Family Fund, a fund of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.
About the KU Jazz Studies Program
The KU Jazz Studies Program began its “official” existence in 1972, when Robert Foster, then KU director of bands, formed the first jazz ensemble within the curriculum. Since that time, the program has grown to include three big bands, 11 jazz combos, a vocal jazz ensemble, and numerous classes in jazz and commercial music. In addition to Foster’s direction, the program was led in subsequent years by James Barnes, Ron McCurdy and the current director, Dan Gailey.
The program is now considered one of the premier college jazz programs in the nation. Highlights over the years include the program’s 29 DownBeat Student Music Awards, including eight awards given to KU Jazz Ensemble I in the category of best college big band; invited performances at jazz festivals in Montreux, Umbria (Italy), Vienne (France), New York (Jazz at Lincoln Center) and the Monterey Next Generation Festival in California, along with international conference performances in New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago and Boston; and additional appearances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York and the Kauffman Center in Kansas City.
Photo: KU Jazz Ensemble at Kennedy Center.