The second International Jazz Composers’ Symposium, held June 12-14 in Tampa, Florida, proved a veritable haven for the professional and aspiring jazz composer. Sponsored by BMI and the University of Southern Florida’s Center for Jazz Composition, the annual Symposium drew more than 80 jazz composers and musicians from throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe to the University of South Florida for three days of intensive new music presentations, concerts, workshops, panel discussions and much more. Featured guest composers included Bill Holman, Jim McNeely and Stefon Harris, who performed in tandem with the Turtle Island Quartet as well as an ensemble of mixed winds and rhythm.
At the end of the Symposium, the guest artist panel selected works in two categories, Small Group Composition and Big Band Composition, to honor with Symposium New Music Awards. Michael LeBrun’s “Jambo” won in the Small Group Composition competition, while Lars Moller took home the trophy in the Big Band Composition category for his original piece “Folk Song #1.” LeBrun is a graduate of Northwestern University and performs and composes in the Chicago area, while Moller is presently composer-in-residence with the Danish Radio Big Band, as well as artistic director of the Copenhagen orchestra. Both LeBrun and Moller will receive $500 checks from the Center for Jazz Composition.
Jim McNeely launched the Symposium with a keynote address affirming the role of the jazz composer as a “most noble profession” and inspiring composers to “challenge listeners to put aside their preconceptions…offer them a chance to enter our world (and) hear something that they haven’t heard before”; to “inspire listeners to feel something that they haven’t felt before” and to “challenge performers to stretch; to reach a little deeper for something they haven’t done before, and inspire them to a higher level of performance.”
Clinics and presentations offered included the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop spearheaded by McNeely, the Center for Jazz Composition’s “Michael Brecker Tribute Project” and the formal presentation of research papers. New music reading sessions highlighted works of 18 composers in three different categories: Big Band, Small Group and Student Compositions. A unique “Composer Poster Showcase” allowed almost two-dozen composers to present their music to attendees in an informal, one-on-one manner via the display of scores, analyses, and listening stations. Another highlight was Artistic Director Chuck Owen and his 17-piece band Jazz Surge, who performed the wide-ranging works of 18 competitively selected composers and master artists Holman & McNeely.
Each day was capped off with an evening concert presenting one of the guest artists’ music. In addition to attracting the conference attendees, the shows drew an enthusiastic audience of central Florida jazz fans who were the appreciative beneficiaries of three nights of diverse and scintillating music.
In addition to the sponsorship by BMI, the Symposium was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and was supported by WUSF-FM in Tampa.
To view pictures, clips and other highlights from the conference, visit centerforjazzcomp.arts.usf.edu.