Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan State's College of Music plans to hold its annual Jazz Festival virtually. The college will livestream the festival on Friday, April 16th from 1-10 p.m. and Saturday, April 17 from 2-10 p.m.
Both graduate students and Grammy-nominated jazz musicians such as vocalist Carmen Bradford, jazz trumpeter Jon Faddis and jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton will be at the festival.
According to a press release from The College of Music, "The MSU Jazz Octets gets things rolling with virtual performances Friday evening led by graduate students under the direction of MSU Jazz professors Randy Napoleon and Diego Rivera. The Friday finale features Bradford in a virtual concert with the MSU Jazz Orchestra, directed by Rodney Whitaker and Michael Dease."
Although not quite the same as an in-person performance, those facilitating the festival are making changes to adapt to a remote setting. Students and faculty are taking safety precautions by wearing face shields, masks, goggles and bell covers if necessary when rehearsing.
"Some of it we were able to do it and record in the studio and do video, ... but now we're able to go into the studio because most of the studios now are fitted with video cameras now," Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker said. "So, most of the performances now were filmed with us playing together in separate booths in the studio."
Additionally, the performances will be shorter than usual to allow for breaks from staring at a screen. This gives viewers time to stretch and use the bathroom prior to the next livestreamed performance.
Students look forward to this event each year, specifically those in the jazz studies program. While the festival is open to anyone to attend, it is a time for jazz students to spend time with one another, which is something that those involved highly favor.
"It's like this big coming together of communities and enjoying the music that we all love, so it is normally a really great time," jazz studies senior Austin Muthyala said.
Jazz studies senior Sequoia Snyder said that having the opportunity to meet other musicians is helpful for younger musicians.
"It is always amazing," Snyder said. "We always have multiple guest artists, and it is a great opportunity for younger students too because they get a change to come perform and hang around college-aged musicians and professional musicians and get feedback. ... It is a nice family feel and ... a very collaborative, fun event."
With that being said, there are a few aspects of not only the festival but the jazz studies program as a whole that are unable to occur due to COVID-19 health and safety rules and regulations.
"The hardest part of this whole thing being remote is that it is infinitely harder to create a sense of community and closeness, but one of the things that makes the jazz program members unique is that we operate in a way that's like everybody in the program is really close," Muthyala said. "We have a fairly large program especially for a jazz program, but, everybody kind of knows each other, and we all hang together all the time."