Eastern Illinois University will be hosting the 61st Annual EIU Jazz Festival Feb. 7 and 8.

Considered one of Illinois’ premiere jazz festivals, the annual event attracts young musicians from across the state. This year, nearly 24 different bands will be performing. Hundreds of high school and middle school student musicians will be on the Charleston EIU campus to hear great jazz performances and sharpen their musical skills. Junior high and high school-age musicians will gain knowledge from a vast lineup of professional jazz players and educators. This year’s special guest artist will be internationally renowned musician, composer and bandleader Marquis Hill.

The EIU Jazz Festival kicks off with an opening concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7 in the Dvorak Concert Hall. On Saturday, students will have the opportunity to hone their music skills by participating in a variety of clinics and competitive events. The clinics are conducted by a wide array of jazz educators and professional jazz players, as well as special guest performances.

From his beginnings as one of Chicago’s most thrilling young trumpeters, to his current status as an internationally renowned jazz artist, Hill has worked tirelessly to break down the barriers that divide musical genres. Contemporary and classic jazz, hip-hop and R&B to Hill are all essential elements of the profound African-American creative heritage he’s a part of.

“It all comes from the same tree,” he says. “They simply blossomed from different branches.”

Born in Chicago in 1987 and raised on the city’s culturally rich South Side, Hill began playing drums at age 4, before switching to trumpet in the sixth grade. He attended high school at Kenwood Academy, excelling in its revered jazz-performance program. Hill earned his bachelor’s in music education from Northern Illinois University and his master’s in jazz pedagogy from DePaul University. During college, he made gigs and sessions around Chicago, jamming with and absorbing wisdom from the like of Fred Anderson, Ernest Dawkins and Von Freeman. Hill quickly gained a reputation in town as a stunningly gifted trumpeter with a soulful, highly textured tone.

In 2014, Marquis Hill won the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz competition and became a presence on the global scene virtually overnight. Maintaining a nonstop touring schedule with his longtime working group Blacktet, the group and its bandleader earned the praise of the Chicago Tribune when the paper called the group “a remarkably polished, immensely attractive ensemble.

“If you enjoy jazz music and want to experience what’s happening on the jazz scene today, Friday night’s EIU Jazz Festival Opening concert is something you will not want to miss,” said Dan Crews, director of programming of the Doudna Fine Arts Center. “It’s exciting to have an artist of Marquis’ status visit us at EIU and share his knowledge with all the young musicians who attend the festival.

Tickets for the opening concert featuring Marquis Hill Blacktet and the EIU Jazz Ensemble featuring are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors (62+), $10 for students, and can be purchased online at www.eiu.edu/doudna or at the Doudna Fine Arts Center Box Office. Box Office hours are Tuesday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and one hour prior to the scheduled performance.

The Doudna Fine Arts Center is located at 1860 South 7th Street in Charleston on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. Convenient free parking is located near the fine arts center. To arrange accommodations for those needing special assistance, contact Doudna Fine Arts Patron Services at 217-581-3110 or doudnatix@eiu.edu. The EIU Jazz Festival is supported by the Consolidated Communications Artists Series, underwriting great jazz performances.

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