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Jazzed Up

In March, UCF presented its ninth annual UCF-Orlando Jazz Festival. The event provides a platform for students and serves the community by bringing diverse, world-renowned jazz performers — from 88-year-old Benny Golson to 22-year-old Veronica Swift — to Central Florida. This year’s festival included performances from guitarist Peter Bernstein, trumpeter Leroy Jones, The Jazz Professors, the Flying Horse Big Band and five Florida high school jazz bands.

[blockquote source=”Jeff Rupert, Pegasus Professor and director of jazz studies” cite=”” color=”” css_class=””]“UCF is the only performing arts school in the world that has both a 24/7 NPR jazz station [89.9 FM] and a record label. In our first year, the jazz festival was broadcast on PRI International all over the world.”[/blockquote]
“Jazz festivals are an important part of keeping the music going, they have been for decades,” says Richard Drexler, instructor at UCF and bass player for The Jazz Professors. “Having one here gets the opportunity to have famous, world-class players come that normally would not be here. 

“I grew up with music in Illinois, living about two hours from Chicago. We would regularly drive to the Jazz Showcase or other venues and hear the famous players, that we all listened to on records. Those venues are few and far between; whereas nowadays, the younger players have incredible access to basically everything ever recorded with Spotify, YouTube and so forth.  

“The one thing that these younger players don’t have access to is catching the live musicians in clubs like that. It’s very rare. The next best thing is in a concert setting in a festival.”
“Folks have tried to define jazz for years,” says Jeff Rupert, Pegasus Professor, director of jazz studies, and saxophonist for The Jazz Professors. “[Jazz pianist educator] Lewis Porter has four definitions of jazz, but I think an easier way to kind of wrap our arms around it is to realize that jazz really embodies the American spirit — that rugged individualism that we talk about, that free-spirited nature. Jazz music is about being an individual within a group setting. It’s really profound how the music really embodies the tenor or the vibe of the country.”
Jazz guitarist Peter Bernstein was one of the headline acts at the 2016 UCF-Orlando Jazz Festival.
Instructor Marty Morell plays the drums for The Jazz Professors. 
Assistant professor Per Danielsson plays piano for The Jazz Professors. 
Assistant professor Michael Wilkinson plays the trombone for The Jazz Professors.