Festival draws jazz enthusiasts to campus

Last weekend, Yale’s second Jazz festival brought together Yale and New Haven’s jazz communities on the stage.

The festival was organized by Yale’s Undergraduate Jazz Collective, a cluster of jazz enthusiasts which provides a forum for musicians to meet, share ideas and make music together. This year’s event included performances by the Yale Jazz Ensemble, accomplished multi-instrumentalist Paul Lieberman ’78 and a master class from steel pan player and composer Andy Akiho MUS ’11. Organizers said their aim is to expose students to jazz music by bringing young, innovative musicians to perform on campus.

Jake Backer ’14, treasurer of the Yale Jazz Collective, called the event “a resounding success.” Backer added that he was pleased with the turnout and praised the diversity and enthusiasm of the audience, which numbered approximately 600 people and included members of both the Yale and New Haven communities.

Hans Bilger ’16, who attended the concerts, said that the festival included some of the best performances he has seen at Yale.

Bilger applauded the diversity of the artists, noting that the group was able to bring many talented musicians to campus. Backer agreed, emphasizing that the group primarily attempts to attract “cool, unknown” artists.

As the culmination of a year’s worth of effort from the entire Jazz Collective, the festival aims to stage free, high-quality performances while exposing students to jazz, said Alexander Dobovoy ’16, the organization’s vice president. The group aspires to heighten awareness of the genre, Dobovoy said, adding that many people aren’t sure what to expect from a jazz concert.

“People think it’s not something they’re interested in, and then I will drag them to a concert and [they] see what it’s actually about,” Dobovoy said.

In addition to attracting more interest on campus, Dobovoy and Backer mentioned that they hope to initiate a change in the way jazz is taught at Yale. Both lamented the absence of a formalized jazz curriculum on campus and said they hope that jazz musicians can receive the same amount of recognition as performers of other genres.

Backer noted that only one class on the art of jazz is currently being taught at Yale, adding that the group has long aspired to bring about a shift in campus culture. For the moment, he added, its goal is simply to solidify the presence of the Jazz Collective as well as the annual festival.

“We want to make it happen again, so that it becomes a permanent fixture, a calendar event,” Backer said.

The group hopes that making the concert a campus staple would allow themto secure more funding, gain corporate sponsors and attract more renowned musicians. The goal, Backer said, is to make the event “bigger and better every year.”

Dobovoy added that the collective also hopes to continue providing a unified community for musicians on campus, which can serve as a foundation for greater projects. Ultimately, he said, what’s most important is that musicians have people to play and can organize gigs with when they arrive on campus.

“There’s something magical about jazz, about seeing the improvisations before you,” Dobovoy said. “I’ve seen faces light up when people see what it’s actually about.”

The festival, the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective’s flagship event, took place from Feb. 7 to Feb. 9.

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