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Jazz festival brings optimism to SDSU and Brookings community

Terell Stafford instructs a group of musicians
Terell Stafford, an acclaimed trumpet player based in New York, was one of the guest artists featured at the festival.

The past few years have increased the need for unity and optimism. The continued partnership between the Brookings Optimist Club and SDSU brought that optimism at their 17th annual SDSU/Brookings Optimist Jazz Festival, held on April 7.

The festival, hosted at the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center, had over 800 middle and high school students and their directors in attendance. Masterclasses are offered to students, which are taught by guest artists.

Guest artists included Terell Stafford and Six Appeal. Stafford is director of jazz studies and chair of instrumental studies at Temple University, founder and band leader of the Terell Stafford Quintet and managing and artistic director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia.  He is described as an “incredibly gifted and versatile trumpet player” with a “deep love of melody with his own brand of spirited and adventurous lyricism.” Stafford has performed in groups such as Benny Golson’s Sextet, Jimmy Heath Quintet and Big Band, Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and more.

Six Appeal, a vocal group based in Minneapolis, has spent the last decade refining and advancing their talent with the addition of new songs, talent and voices. They have won several competitions, including the National Harmony Sweepstakes and the world’s largest a cappella competition in Moscow, Russia.

Yiqun Chen, a lecturer in the School of Performing Arts (SoPA), has been assisting with the festival planning since coming to SDSU five years ago. Chen works with the Brookings Optimist Club, other faculty and staff in the School of Performing Arts, students, guest artists and SDSU University Marketing and Communications to plan the festival.

“It is quite the time commitment, as there are many steps involved in the planning of the festival,” said Chen. Whether securing guest artists and arranging lodging and transportation to creating schedules and coordinating performances, the festival takes leadership and collaboration from all individuals involved. SDSU students are also an integral part of the planning process and perform during the festival.

With exciting guest artists and a large group in attendance, the event was successful. “We got a great deal of positive feedback regarding the festival,” Chen explained. “Many directors feel that it is a great educational opportunity for their students because they get feedback on their performance from judges.”

Chen said the festival is valuable for SDSU and the Brookings community. “The jazz festival is an educational service that both the SoPA and the Brookings Optimist Club believe in firmly. Students and educators that participate in the festival get invaluable feedback from the judges.”