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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Victor Garcia Shines During 45th Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival

The 45th annual Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival returned to Galesburg May 14-18, 2024, welcoming Grammy-nominated trumpeter Victor Garcia as the headlining act. 

Throughout the week, Garcia played with three separate bands around the area. He began by visiting schools in Galesburg, Monmouth, and Knoxville, performing for students with the Victor Garcia Quartet. The group taught students about how African music traveled throughout the Americas and evolved differently in each country, as well as the origins of Latin Jazz. Selected students were also given a chance to play along with the band.

“The reception around Galesburg has been extraordinary,” Garcia shared. “The students want to participate and be a part of this. It’s been a great experience.” 

Rootabaga 2024

Rootabaga also hosted multiple performances at the Galesburg Community Art Center, opening the stage to multiple local school bands including Galesburg Junior High and High School Jazz Bands, ROWVA High School Jazz Band, and the Canton High School Jazz Band. 

The Knox Faculty and Friends Combo and Alumni Big Band also made appearances, with alumni coming from all over the world to play. Yumi Kusunoki '10 flew into Galesburg from her home in Japan to play trombone. She hadn’t returned to the area in six years and felt excited to get back on the stage, performing a few solos throughout the night. 

“Rootabaga always felt like home. This is like Homecoming for me,” Kusunoki said. 

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

The festival concluded on Saturday with multiple events, including a “Rootabaga Kids” performance at the newly opened Galesburg Public Library by the Victor Garcia Latin Sextet. 

Saturday night saw the Orpheum Theatre packed for the festival's headlining performance. The show introduced a new addition: the Rootabaga Jazz All-Stars, a group of 20 talented student musicians from seven different local schools nominated by their band directors. They were followed by the Knox Jazz Ensemble. Both groups were joined on stage by Garcia for their set.

The Victor Garcia Organ Quintet, Garcia’s third group of the week, played an inspired set to close the night. Garcia explained that for every performance he prepared throughout the week, he never repeated a single song, making each set unique. The main stage performance for the Orpheum crowd showcased a set of jazz tunes from the great American Songbook, featuring Jill Katona on vocals and the unique sound of the Hammond organ.

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

Andy Crawford, managing director of Knox College's music performance program, was pleased with the community engagement with the festival, marking another successful year. He felt that this year’s school tour in particular was among the best he’d experienced in its 10-year history and was overall ecstatic with the quality performances that Garcia brought to Galesburg. 

“Victor is such an ambitious musician,” Crawford added. “He brought something special to Galesburg and inspired everyone he played with.”

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Printed on Sunday, June 16, 2024