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Matt Wilson was the scheduled performer for the 2020 Rootabaga Jazz Festival at Knox College


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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Festival Headliner & Grammy-Nominated Jazz Musician Shares Music: Put On a Happy Face

Matt Wilson was the scheduled performer for the 2020 Rootabaga Jazz Festival at Knox College

The cancellation of this year's Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival hasn't stopped Grammy-nominated jazz drummer and scheduled Rootabaga headliner Matt Wilson from sharing his music with the Knox and Galesburg communities. During these uncertain times, Wilson shared a little music and light with his rendition of "Put on a Happy Face" from Bye Bye Birdie

The Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival, a five-day event that partners Knox College, the Galesburg community, and local artists and musicians, has been a part of Knox's Department of Music for 40 years. The festival focuses on collaborations between guest artists and students, with performances in various venues around the community.

The 2020 festival had been scheduled for April 14-18. Internationally renowned jazz drummer, composer, and bandleader Matt Wilson was the scheduled headline performer, along with special guests Tia Fuller, Ben Allison, Dawn Clement, Jeff Lederer, and guest ensemble Black Diamond.

Wilson has released 13 albums as a leader, appeared on more than 400 others as a sideman and has played with an impressive array of some of the most legendary names in jazz, including Wynton Marsalis, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, John Scofield, Joanne Brackeen and Herbie Hancock. He was named 2018 Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association and his album,  Honey And Salt (Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg), won the JJA’s Album of the Year Award. That recording and his previous,  Beginning of a Memory, accomplished the rare feat of an artist receiving consecutive 5-star (masterpiece) reviews from DownBeat magazine.


  • Ted Curson performs at the second annual festival in 1981.
  • Students perform on the Orpheum Theatre stage in 1989.
  • Former festival director Scott Garlock (1990-2003), Rootabaga founder Mona Tourlentes, and current director Nikki Malley (2004-present).
  • Rootabaga Kids with Deep Blue Organ Trio at the Galesburg Public Library in 2013.
  • Chris Rollins '04 perfoms with the Alumni Big Band in 2014
  • Friday Night LowDown Brass Band performs for the crowd in 2015.

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Printed on Wednesday, July 15, 2020