Prairie State College to host 35th Annual Jazz Fest

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Prairie State College to host 35th Annual Jazz Fest (Chicago Heights, IL) — Prairie State College (PSC) will host its 35th Annual Jazz Fest with the feature concert on Friday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Barnes & Noble College Auditorium in the PSC Conference Center. Guest artists are Orbert Davis (trumpet), Darius Hampton (saxophone), Valerie Nicholson (piano), Larry Gray (bass), and Ernie Adams (drums). The concert is open to the public, and tickets are available for $10 each, which can be purchased at the door. For more information, please call (708) 709-3742.

The Jazz Fest begins on Thursday, Feb. 15, featuring 15 middle and high school groups performing for our guest artists. Exemplary student performers will be selected during the festival to join the artists for a concert on Friday night.

Short biographies of the concert performers and a list of the schools currently scheduled to play on Thursday of the festival are below.

Featured Performers

Orbert Davis (Trumpet)
Davis is an Emmy-Award winning trumpeter, composer and educator and is co-founder, conductor and artistic director of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic (CJP), a 55+ piece symphonic jazz orchestra dedicated to bringing together audiences of diverse backgrounds through multi-genre projects. Over the past 30 years, Mr. Davis’ mission-driven career has evolved successfully from ‘making it in the music industry’ to being a true leader in Chicago’s arts and culture community. He is widely respected in not only all things Jazz, but also for the distinctive ability to use his musical talents to make positive impacts on society through arts education and advocacy.

Darius Hampton (Saxophone)
Saxophonist and Northwestern University lecturer where he directs jazz ensembles. Darius is a musician and educator who studied saxophone with Charles “Chip” McNeill and Ron Bridgewater while earning his MM in Jazz Studies at the University of Illinois. He has performed or collaborated with artists including: Jon Faddis, Slide Hampton, Wycliffe Gordon, Dana Hall, Frank Foster, Garnett Brown, Miguel Zenon, Etienne Charles, Tom Tom Washington and Victor Goines. He is currently the Managing Director of Education and Special Projects at the Jazz Institute of Chicago and a lecturer at Northwestern University.

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Valerie Nicholson (Piano)
Nicholson is a Professor and the Coordinator of music at Prairie State College and has taught at the College since 1986. She has performed with many ensembles including the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony Center, and the Chicago Jazz and Blues Festivals with Burgess Gardner’s Well-Oiled Jazz Machine and Southland Jazz Ensemble. Nicholson has been recognized for her contributions to the arts by the Park Forest Historical Society, Tall Grass Arts Association, and Star Newspapers. More recently, Valerie received the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s inaugural “Jazz Alive” Educator’s Award in 2019. She is the founder and coordinator of the annual Prairie State College Jazz Festival.

Larry Gray (Bassist)
Gray is a bassist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. He has enjoyed a distinguished career, spanning four decades, in which he has collaborated with a long list of many of the most notable of jazz artists, including Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Williams, McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson, Eddie Harris, James Moody, Sonny Stitt, Larry Coryell, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson, Steve Turre, George Coleman, Lee Konitz, Benny Green, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, and Dave Liebman, among many others. As a composer and leader, he has five solo recordings to his credit, beginning with his debut, Solo + Quartet, and most recently, Three Equals One.

Ernie Adams (Drums)
Ernie has performed in tours, recordings and/or concerts in 48 different countries with Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Al Jarreau, Dee Alexander, Dianne Reeves, Niki Harris, Freddy Cole, Ann Hampton-Calloway, Kurt Elling, Patricia Barber, Ursula Dudziak, Grazyna Auguscik, and many other jazz greats. Ernie is a Drum/Jazz Professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Instructor for the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Ravinia Jazz Mentor, Instructor for the Jazz Institute of Chicago and Jazz Instructor at the Music Institute of Chicago. He has played on three CDs and a DVD with the Al DiMeola Electric Band, and also played 12 years with Ramsey Lewis having been featured on two of his CDs.

Performing Schools
Rich Township High School Fine Arts Campus, Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Tinley Park High School, Huth Middle School, Thornwood High School, Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center, Coolidge Middle School, Southland College Prep High School, Victor J. Andrew High School, Grimmer Middle School, Chicago Christian High School, Michelle Obama School of Technology and the Arts.

Prairie State College to host 35th Annual Jazz Fest

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