JSU Jazz Festival Continues to Grow


Dr. Andy Nevala conducts one of the many jazz ensembles he's established on campus.

by Brett Buckner

When Dr. Andy Nevala arrived on campus in 2011, he was surprised to learn there weren't any educational jazz festivals in the state. So, the JSU director of jazz studies decided to create one himself - establishing the only event of its kind in the state. 

Modeled after a large, three-day festival Nevala helped direct at the University of Northern Colorado before moving to Alabama, the JSU Jazz Festival was born. It features middle school, high school and college ensembles, as well as professional musicians. 

“Our jazz festival was founded to provide a positive educational experience for the students and the directors,” said Dr. Nevala. “They perform in front of exceptional jazz educators, who then give them immediate feedback on how they can improve their performance. There are also clinics throughout the day the students can attend to get them fired up about playing jazz.”

Now in its 12th year, the festival will be held on April 20-21 in Mason Hall, Room 351. All events are free and open to the public. 

April 20

7:30 p.m. - JSU Jazz Alumni Concert

April 21

8 a.m. - JSU Jazz Ensemble IV

8:30 a.m. - The Donaho School

9 a.m. - JSU Jazz Ensemble III

9:30 a.m. - Guntersville High School

10 a.m. - Gadsden Middle School

10:30 a.m. - Jacksonville High School

11 a.m. - RF Bumpus Middle School

11:30 a.m. - Gadsden City High School

12 p.m. - JSU Latin Ensemble Rhythm Section Clinic, Sax Clinic, Brass Clinic

1:30 p.m. - Thompson High School #2

2 p.m. - Ringgold High School #2

2:30 p.m. - JSU Jazz Ensemble I

3 p.m. - Springville High School

3:30 p.m. - Thompson High School #1

4 p.m. - Ringgold High School #1

4:30 p.m. - JSU Jazz Ensemble I

5 p.m. - Meet the Artist, Mace Hibbard Quartet

7:30 p.m. - Mace Hibbard Quartet

Much like the festival it promotes, JSU’s jazz program has grown steadily, now consisting of four large jazz ensembles, eight combos, a drum set ensemble, a Latin ensemble, the contemporary combo and the new vocal jazz ensemble.

"There isn’t another jazz program in the Southeast, or the majority of the country for that matter, that is that size with a student population of under 10,000,” Nevall said. “We have even added a jazz performance degree at JSU. We are training students to become professional musicians and educators, and for them to be employable in the industry.”