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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Annual Mirza Jazz Residency Provides Students Quality Time with Guest Artists

2019 Residency features the Caroline Davis and Rob Clearfield Quartet

Members of the Caroline Davis and Rob Clearfield Quartet come to Knox for this year's Jerome Mirza Jazz Residency.

The annual Jerome Mirza Jazz Residency, hosted by Knox College’s Jazz Studies program and funded by the Jerome Mirza Foundation, will take place from November 4 to November 8. 

This year’s residency features the Caroline Davis and Rob Clearfield Quartet, a group of professional jazz musicians made up of alto saxophonist Caroline Davis, pianist Rob Clearfield, bassist Sam Weber, and drummer Jay Sawyer. As a culmination of the Mirza Residency, the quartet will be featured in a free public concert on Friday, November 8 at 7:00 p.m. in the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Galesburg. 

Throughout the residency, members of the jazz quartet will educate and collaborate with Knox students in a series of jazz-related activities. These activities include a wide variety of workshops and one-on-one lessons with Knox jazz students, as well as rehearsals with jazz combos on campus and an informal listening party at the Jazz House on campus. 

Nikki Malley, associate professor of music as well as a jazz instructor at Knox, said that “perhaps the most significant experiences students take away from the residency are those moments when they get to have real, meaningful one-on-one interactions with the guest artists.” 

She added that during the listening party “students are always fascinated to hear the wide variety of styles and genres that the [visiting] artists are inspired by, and the conversations about the music are always stimulating and insightful, to say the least.” 

With the extension of this year’s residency to span five days, the visiting artists will also join Knox’s Cherry Street Combo at Fat Fish Pub during their weekly Jazz Night on Thursday, November 7. 

These many activities associated with the residency are crucial to Knox’s jazz program. Malley said that “the more that the artists and students come to know each other over the course of the week, the more they are able to develop artistic trust and the essential aspects of communication that happen in improvised musics.”

Of the residency overall, Malley said, “This is how you learn the language of jazz. Our directors and instructors at Knox are outstanding musicians and educators, but we cannot offer students glimpses into all corners of the jazz world. The Mirza Residency, essentially, allows us to expand our teaching faculty every year, bringing in a diverse set of voices and artistic identities. Only through direct experience with the diversity of jazz styles and approaches can a developing musician find their own voice.”

The free public concert, offered yearly as the culmination of the Jerome Mirza Jazz Residency, engages the greater Galesburg area with each year’s guest artists. Malley said that the concert is a highly collaborative effort between the guest artists and Knox students: “When artists of the highest caliber in the world sit down with the [students’] material, they help students imagine possibilities they had never thought possible. Then, when these artists actually perform a student’s work in concert, it is really an unparalleled experience.”

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Printed on Saturday, June 22, 2024