UMSL Jazz Ensemble

Students returning to the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus for the start of the summer session this week might have noticed more activity than normal for this time of the year. A large crowd of young musicians packed the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center and Millennium Student Center for jazz panel discussions, music performance clinics and soundchecks.

It was all part of the inaugural Jazz Education Network Conference, a three-day event for musicians, students and schools that has garnered national and local media attention for UMSL. Not bad for an event that initially looked like it might not come together until 2011. In the May issue of Downbeat magazine, JEN Board Director Mary Jo Papich credited two of UMSL’s biggest jazz aficionados for making the conference happen sooner.

“We were about planning long-term, postponing until next year, when (bassist and UMSL jazz studies director) Jim Widner jumped up and put in a call to his chancellor (Tom George) at UMSL,” Papich said in the article.

The conference kicked off yesterday with a “Meet Me in St. Louis” celebration. Evening concerts at the Touhill are performed after each day’s educational sessions wrap.

“It’s for educators and professionals to come together and do what we’ve always done – exchange ideas, and observe clinics by master artists,” Widner told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s a true educational conference, and the frosting on the cake is that we have all these great headliners coming in to do concerts.”

Visit to read the entire St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.

The Brubeck Institute Quintet, Caswell Sisters, The JEN All-Stars and The Army Blues “Pershing’s Own” performed last night. Sixth Wave, Rufus Reid OUT FRONT Trio and the UMSL Jazz Ensemble led by Widner will perform at 8 p.m. tonight. The Hannes Sigfridsson Trio, Marvin Stamm/Bill Mays Duo, Rosana Eckert & Friends and Clayton Brothers Quintet will perform at 8 p.m. tomorrow.

The evening concerts are free for conference registrants and pass holders. Limited seating is available to the public for $30 per night.

The JEN Conference will be an annual event taking place each year in a different city. The second conference is scheduled from Jan. 6 to 8 in New Orleans.

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Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz