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Drummer, Matt Wilson, sits in front of a modern, fire-orange drum set in a dark blue suit and purple tie holding a drum stick in right hand above drum cymbal.

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Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival 2022 Will be May 3-7

Drummer, Matt Wilson, sits in front of a modern, fire-orange drum set in a dark blue suit and purple tie holding a drum stick in right hand above drum cymbal.

This year’s Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival, from May 3-7, will be one to remember. Two years after the COVID pandemic forced the cancellation of the festival’s 40th anniversary celebration, festival organizers and acclaimed jazz drummer Matt Wilson are reconvening the all-star band that was slated to perform in 2020. In addition to Wilson, special guests include Ben Allison, Dawn Clement, Jeff Lederer, and Tia Fuller, who was the featured saxophonist in the Pixar movie Soul

“There is no more fitting way to celebrate 40+ years of Rootabaga jazz than with Knoxville (Illinois) native and internationally renowned drummer, composer, and bandleader Matt Wilson,” said Knox Associate Professor of Music Nikki Malley, who also is artistic director of the Knox Jazz Year, which includes the Rootabaga Jazz Festival.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the success and longevity of the Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival are due in large part to Wilson’s decades of support and tireless promotion of the festival and the Galesburg-area community, helping to bring artists of the highest international acclaim to our community year after year,” said Malley.

Many more groups—including the Knox Alumni Big Band, Faculty and Friends Combo, the Knox Jazz Ensemble, the Galesburg High School Jazz Band, and the Churchill Junior High Jazz Band—are set to perform.

Wilson, born in Knoxville, Illinois, has released 13 albums as a bandleader and has appeared on more than 400 others as a sideman. Wilson was named Musician of the Year in 2018 by the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA), and his album Honey And Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg won the JJA’s 2018 Album of the Year. Throughout his career, Wilson has played with some of the most notable names in jazz.

Wilson also received an honorary doctor of arts degree from Knox College in 2019 at the June Commencement exercises.

The Rootabaga Jazz Festival takes place throughout Galesburg every year. The festival celebrates local jazz heroes, as well as inviting other artists to join in the lively jazz community in Galesburg. This year, concerts will be hosted by the Orpheum Theatre, the Galesburg Community Arts Center, the Galesburg Public Library, Galesburg School District 205 grade schools, Galesburg High School, and United Junior High and High School, both in Monmouth.

A product of a longtime collaboration between Knox College’s jazz program and the Galesburg community, this project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Greig-Post Adventure in Arts Fund, and the Galesburg Community Foundation.

Learn more about this year’s line-up, purchase tickets, and donate to the festival.

2022 Rootabaga Jazz Festival Schedule

Tuesday, May 3

Matt Wilson and Jeff Lederer School Tour group

United High School

7:00 p.m.

Free and open to the public


Thursday, May 5

Faculty and Friends Combo

Galesburg Community Arts Center, 349 E Main St, Galesburg

7:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.

Admission: $5, Knox Students free with ID


Friday, May 6

GHS and Churchill Jazz Bands

6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.


Knox Alumni Big Band directed by Nikki Malley

7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.


Matt Wilson Group

8:30 p.m.-11 p.m.


Galesburg Community Arts Center, 349 E Main St, Galesburg

Admission: $10, Knox Students free with ID


Saturday, May 7

Rootabaga Kids: Matt Wilson Group

Galesburg Public Library

10:00 a.m.

Free and open to the public


Matt Wilson Group with the Knox Jazz Ensemble

Orpheum Theatre, 57 S. Kellogg St., Galesburg

5:00 p.m.

Admission: $20 mezzanine seats, free floor & balcony seats

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Printed on Friday, June 24, 2022