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Some musicians’ careers are easily pigeonholed. Not so Bob Sheppard’s. For more than four decades, he has played on countless sessions with an astounding crop of A-list jazz giants—among them Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, Michael and Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, Herbie Hancock, Kurt Elling, Dianne Reeves, Lyle Mays, John Beasley and Steps Ahead—and artists within several other genres. He’s also recorded and toured as a leader, contributed to hundreds of movie and TV soundtracks, served as an educator and more.
Sheppard began playing professionally while still living in the Philadelphia area, where he grew up. He continued while attending college, working various stage shows and even the circus, and soon found gigs accompanying giants of the business such as Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr. and the 5th Dimension. A steady spot in the orchestra of Chuck Mangione provided vital learning experience.
One of Sheppard’s most rewarding ongoing involvements has been his work as an educator. For more than a decade he’s been a part-time faculty member at the USC Thornton School of Music and frequently conducts clinics at colleges. Still, he is pragmatic about the role that jazz education plays in the development of a musician.
“Those days of a student playing tons of gigs are gone, so the only way for a young jazzer to find inspiration and camaraderie is through a college program,” Sheppard says. “I love the fact that there are institutions that offer this, and one of the great benefits of college is the many ensemble opportunities. But ultimately the language of jazz was never passed down and learned by courses,” he says. “We all learn differently and have different strengths and weaknesses. When I teach, I try to concentrate on how to develop a fun, personal and efficient way to practice that will continue for the decades to come. I enjoy the process of teaching someone how to teach themselves, how to develop a routine that motivates, attacks problems and simulates how we all learned before the advent of pedagogy and curriculum.”
Graced with an “impeccable” voice (Winnipeg Free Press) and hailed as an artist that “may well turn out to be the next important jazz singer” by the LA Times, Sara Gazarek has been one of the leading lights of an impressive generation of jazz vocalists since her brilliant emergence at age 20. From the outside, her subsequent career has been the picture of success: five acclaimed albums, an ardent fanbase, enthusiastic reviews, and opportunities that have taken her around the world, leading to thrilling collaborations with some of her most respected and celebrated peers.
Amanda Taylor is an award-winning arranger specializing in music for vocal ensembles. Pentatonix founder & producer Ben Bram says, “Amanda’s arrangements are absolutely stunning. She has the magical ability to create works that are so dazzling and complex, yet still satisfyingly singable, tasteful, and accessible to all listeners.” In 2010, Taylor attended Central Washington University to study music composition. Taylor is a frequent guest clinician and adjudicator at various vocal jazz festivals, and continues to arrange for both scholastic and professional vocal ensembles.
Johnaye Kendrick was born and raised in San Diego, CA. She received a Bachelor of Music from Western Michigan University in 2005. During her time at Western Michigan, she received a DownBeat Student Music Award for Outstanding Jazz Vocalist, and was featured in an honors recital with pianist Fred Hersch. In the fall of 2007, Ms. Kendrick was accepted to the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. She received an Artist’s Diploma from the Thelonious Monk Institute and a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies from Loyola University in 2009. Johnaye performs her own original compositions as well as fresh interpretations of beloved jazz and pop compositions.
Hailing from the green mountains of Vermont, Erin Bentlage writes, sings, and plays music in search of organic sound. Raised in a small town near the city of Burlington, she developed her love for emotional musical expression through ballet and classical piano lessons, and in high school found herself involved in any musical activity possible, from performing as a singer and pianist to directing her school’s first a cappella group. She became the first vocalist to win the Vermont All State Jazz Scholarship in 2008 and 2009, which also served as her first experience in jazz and improvisation. Though university studies tried to pull her towards the sciences, she realized by the beginning of her sophomore year that she wanted to devote her life to music and transferred to Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA where she eventually graduated with a degree in Contemporary Writing and Production.
The Northwest College Jazz Festival is a non-competitive performance opportunity for vocal and instrumental jazz groups at all levels of proficiency. High-quality assessment and instruction will be provided by respected jazz educators in a positive and constructive learning environment. This festival encourages young musicians and teachers to grow through camaraderie and musical exchange.
We are now inviting college ensembles and students to join us at the Northwest Jazz Festival. This division is open to soloists, combos, and ensembles of all sizes from community colleges or universities.
We are now welcoming combos (small groups focusing on improvisation) to join us in this special division. Open to small ensembles of any instrumentation. Students will have the opportunity to perform in a separate performance venue and work with a clinician and professional rhythm section.
Registration is now open!
Registration Deadline is January 15, 2020. SPACE IS LIMITED so register early!
$225 - Jazz Bands and Choirs
$125 - Jazz Combos
As part of your registration, please fill these out the appropriate set of festival forms. You can upload the completed forms during the registration process, or you may return them via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Refunds are only available for entry fees when circumstances prevent the judges from appearing at the festival
Each group may schedule a 20-minute performance time which will include recorded and written adjudication and an off-stage 20-minute clinic for your band or choir. Teachers may elect to receive a rating or "comments only."
Music displays, as well as clinics and workshops, will be available throughout the festival.
Awards are given to outstanding soloists over the course of the festival. Judges also select a band and choir who exemplify our festival philosophy by their performance and spirit for the duration of the festival
Click here for the 2020 Festival Schedule.
Tuesday, February 25, 6:30 PM
Powell High School Auditorium
This concert features the festival guest artists: Bob Sheppard and Säje.
Tickets for the concert may be purchased by calling 307-754-6425 or by stopping by the Music Office in the Nelson Performing Arts Center (NPA 16). The concert will be in Powell High School Auditorium. Tickets will also be on sale at the door.
*School directors and chaperones will also receive the discounted price.
Recording & Sound
231 W 6th Street Bldg 2
Powell, WY 82435
The Northwest Jazz Festival is supported in part by a grant from the Park County Travel Council.