Northwestern Michigan College’s first-ever jazz festival is reeling them in from all over, including world-renowned trumpeter and Interlochen alum Walter White.
The two-day festival, which coincides with the annual NMC BBQ, features area high school jazz bands, the college’s big band and vocal jazz ensemble, plus NMC faculty and guests.
White, who is the former lead trumpet player for the legendary Maynard Ferguson, will be bringing his little big band, Small Medium @LARGE. When he appeared as a soloist four years ago, it marked the first-ever sold-out show for any NMC music ensemble.
“I always love playing up there,” he said. The festival is the brainchild of Mike Hunter, NMC’s director of jazz ensembles. Although he is retiring this year to focus more on composing and arranging, he said the festival is a “great opportunity” for area students.
“They will get to see and learn from the best,” he said. White’s rhythm section will be backing up the NMC Vocal Jazz Ensemble on “Baroque Samba.” The challenging “All Blues” will feature him as a soloist with the singers, with instrumental muscle courtesy of the NMC Big Band.
The first show is at Milliken Auditorium on Saturday, May 17 at 7:30pm, with the college big band and vocal jazz ensemble opening for White and his group. Tickets for the show are $20 and are available at the Milliken box office.
The Sunday, May 17 concerts, also at Milliken Auditorium, begin at 1:30pm with high school bands from Forest Area, Kingsley and Elk Rapids. The college’s jazz lab band will follow, with a group of NMC faculty and guests wrapping up the festival. Admission to the Sunday show is free.