NCCU Partners with Monterey Jazz Festival for Musical Showcase

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) has expanded its partnership with the Monterey Jazz Festival (MJF), bringing the renowned festival to the Durham campus in April 2024 during Jazz Appreciation Month.

Kicking off this collaboration is the inaugural Monterey Jazz @ NCCU High-School All Star Jazz Band and Vocal Ensemble. Auditions for the groups are now open to high school jazz musicians and singers statewide. The selected All Stars will rehearse and perform together on April 17 through April 19 on the NCCU campus.

High school students will also be offered an opportunity to attend a comprehensive two-day program on April 18 and 19. The program will feature an open rehearsal with NCCU’s Artist-in-Residence, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, workshops on college pathways, and panel discussions on careers in the music industry. Esteemed panelists include Lenora Helm Hammonds, DMA, NCCU’s Department of Music chair; Colleen Bailey, executive director of MJF; Darin Atwater, artistic director of MJF; and Robert Trowers, NCCU’s director of Jazz Studies. The program will culminate with a performance by MJF’s new artistic director, pianist and composer Darin Atwater, alongside the NCCU High School All Star Jazz Band.

NCCU’s Jazz Studies program has garnered recognition as a premier university program. In 2023, the Jazz Combo from NCCU secured the top prize in MJF’s national HBCU Jazz Combo Challenge, earning the opportunity to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Founded by jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd and guided by saxophonist, flutist, and educator Dr. Ira Wiggins, NCCU’s jazz faculty includes artists-in-residence Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo; Jazz Studies director and director of NCCU’s Combo 1, Robert Trowers (trombone); Albert Strong (trumpet); Helm Hammonds who directs NCCU’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble; Maurice Myers (vocals); Jim Crew (piano); J.C. Martin (guitar); Thomas Taylor (drums and percussion); Damon Brown (bass); Shaena Ryan (reeds and saxophone); and Keenan McKenzie (saxophones).