Carolina Jazz Festival Celebrates 40 Years

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Marcus Roberts
The festivals headliner, Marcus Roberts and the Modern Jazz Generation, are known for their new approach to jazz trio performance.

The 40th annual Carolina Jazz Festival is coming to UNC’s campus Wednesday, February 15. The four-day event promotes a broad range of programming, from musical performances to education and scholarship. Headlining the festival is Marcus Roberts and the Modern Jazz Generation. Dayna Stephens, tenor saxophonist and composer, will serve as the festival’s Artist-in-Residence.

As leader of the 2017 festival and current Director of Jazz Studies at UNC, Jim Ketch tells us about partners of the festival, what has made it such a success, and which events are a must-see for newcomers.

Can you tell us more about the link between the Carolina Jazz Festival with Jazz at Lincoln Center and the North Carolina Regional Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Festival?

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s (JALC) Essentially Ellington Competition is their premier jazz education program. After a couple of years, the EE festival became aware that parts of the country were not participating to the level of others. So, UNC and Temple University in Philadelphia were asked to host the first two regional EE festivals. We are most proud of this and have been doing so for the past 12 years!

Why do you think the Jazz Festival has been such an important event on UNC’s campus for the last 40 years?

With the help of countless people across this campus, we have been able to transform the festival from a Department of Music to a UNC event. Carolina Performing Arts books a headliner and match four days around that booking. Our campus sponsors are diverse and so helpful as they provide financial and other resources to make everything work.

What is your favorite part about the Carolina Jazz Festival?

I am very close to my students and my jazz colleagues. So the biggest thrill is seeing these students getting to “rub shoulders” with such accomplished musicians.The joys of discovery abound the entire four days, and lots of networking for the future occurs!

Which events would you suggest newcomers of the Jazz Festival attend?

Marcus Roberts concert, Friday evening February 17 at 8 p.m. in Memorial Hall.

UNC Jazz Band with Dayna Stephens, tenor saxophonist, on Saturday, February 18 at 8 p.m.

Which event do you predict will have the largest turnout? 

Marcus Roberts!

To view this year’s Carolina Jazz Festival schedule of events, visit

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