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NIU Jazz, Steelband join for concert

Published: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 9:57 a.m. CDT

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DEKALB – The NIU Steelband and The NIU Jazz Ensemble will present a joint concert at the Duke Ellington Ballroom, Holmes Student Center, located on the campus of Northern Illinois University at 8 p.m. Saturday March 20.

This concert will be especially significant as it will mark one of the very first attempts at a Steelband and Jazz Ensemble playing arrangements and original compositions which were specifically written for this combination.

The compositions and arrangements were done by NIU Alum, Sune Borregaard, and will include Miles Davis’ "Nardis," the Gillespie/Pozo/Fuller standard "Manteca" as well as Borregaard’s own "The Blue Pan" and "April."

Directed by Professor Ronald Carter, the NIU Jazz Ensemble includes students from around the world, and has long been considered one of the best college jazz bands in the world. The ensemble performed at the 54th annual Midwest Music Clinic in Chicago with saxophonist Jimmy Heath as the guest artist, and at the 28th annual International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) Conference in New York with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis as the guest artist.

During the summer of 2001 the band performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, at the Jazz à Vienne Festival in France, and at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The list of guest artists with whom the ensemble has toured and performed includes Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Bellson, Clark Terry, Tito Puente, James Moody, Randy Brecker, Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller and many, many others. In the summer of 1996 the NIU Jazz Ensemble performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland as Quincy Jones’s big band with guest artists Phil Collins, Patti Austin, David Sanborn, Gerald Albright, Chaka Kahn, Toots Theilman and James Morrison.

The NIU Jazz Studies Program has been rated since 1996 as one of the top ten jazz programs in the United States by US News & World Reports.

The NIU Steel Band is directed by Liam Teague and Clifford Alexis. Started in 1973 by G. Allan O'Connor, who was head of percussion studies in the School of Music at that time, it was the first actively-performing steel band formed in an American university and has performed throughout the United States and around the world.

Over the years, the NIU Steel Band has broadened the repertoire and performance venues for this unique musical instrument, including a performance for 18,000 soccer fans in Yankee Stadium, concerts with symphony orchestras (including the St. Louis Symphony and the Chicago Sinfonietta), performances at several Percussive Arts Society International Conventions (PASIC), and two successful tours of Taiwan in 1992 and 1998.

In 2000 the NIU Steel Band had the distinction of placing second in the World Steelband Festival in Trinidad, and in 2002 performed the opening concert and several others at the Seoul Drum Festival in Korea.

Since the introduction of the steel band at NIU, many institutions of learning in the United States have formed their own ensembles. NIU Steel Band is a 35-member group and is mainly comprised of steelpan and percussion majors. The band performs regularly at public schools, colleges and universities, conventions and arts series concert programs. The band has three recordings to its credit, including its most recent: “Festival of Voices,” a live concert featuring an eclectic blend of musical styles.

In addition to the NIU Steelband, two other steelband ensembles exist on campus. The All-University Steel Band, a group open to any NIU student regardless of major or previous experience on pan, and the Steelpan Studio, comprised exclusively of Steelpan majors.

NIU is one of the few institutions in the world at which students may pursue music degrees (bachelors and masters) with the steelpan as the major instrument of choice.

The concert is free and open to the public. The Holmes Student Center is accessible to all.

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