Music Institute of Chicago Sets Billy Strayhorn Festival for 10/26-28


Honoring the work and legacy of one of the great jazz composers and collaborators, the Music Institute of Chicago presents a Billy Strayhorn Festival October 26–28. The festival, presented in partnership with Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc., a family corporation of the Strayhorn heirs, includes two star-studded concerts featuring trumpet great Terell Stafford and a screening of the award-winning film Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life followed by a panel discussion. The festival takes place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.

Billy Strayhorn (1915–67) was one of the greatest composers in the history of American music, the creator of a body of work that includes such standards as "Take the 'A' Train," "Chelsea Bridge," and "Lush Life." Yet, all his life, Strayhorn was overshadowed by his friend and collaborator Duke Ellington, with whom he worked for three decades as the Ellington Orchestra's primary songwriter and arranger. While composing some of the most gorgeous American music of this century, Strayhorn labored under a complex agreement whereby Ellington took the bows for his work; until his life was tragically cut short by cancer and alcohol abuse, the small, shy black composer carried himself with singular style and grace as one of the few jazzmen to be openly homosexual. (This text is courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)
Friday, October 26, 7:30 p.m.-Film Screening and Panel Discussion
The festival kicks off with a screening of Robert Levi's recently updated, highly acclaimed documentary Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, which uncovers the mystery behind the complex life of this pioneering African-American composer, arranger and pianist. The film features world premieres of his music featuring singers Elvis Costello and Dianne Reeves, pianists Hank Jones and Bill Charlap, saxophonist Joe Lovano, and guitarist Russell Malone. With interviews, performances, and archival footage, Lush Life showcases Strayhorn's gifts and illuminates the issues that deprived him of deserved recognition. In 2008, Lush Life became the first program in broadcast history to receive three important awards in one year: the Emmy Award for Best Documentary of the Year, the George Foster Peabody Award for Broadcast Excellence, and the Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay. The film was also one of three documentaries to make New York Magazine's Top Ten Best Television Events list.
For the post-screening discussion, panelists include Henry Louis Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University; filmmaker Robert Levi; Victor Goines, director of jazz studies at Northwestern University; Strayhorn biographer David Hajdu; trumpeter Terell Stafford; and WBEZ 91.5 FM broadcaster Richard Steele.

Saturday, October 27, 7:30 p.m.-Terell Stafford Quintet: This Side of Strayhorn

Inspired by his own recording of the same name, jazz trumpeter Terell Stafford and his ensemble pay tribute to one of the 20th century's greatest jazz composers and collaborators-Billy Strayhorn. The quintet also features Tim Warfield Jr., saxophone; Bruce Barth, piano; Peter Washington, bass; and Dana Hall, drums.

Terell Stafford is a gifted and versatile trumpeter with a voice all his own. His newest release, This Side of Strayhorn(MAXJAZZ 2011) has been called "the first must have album of 2011" and "genius." Stafford is a member of the Grammy Award-winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Grammy-nominated Clayton Brothers Quintet, and the Frank Wess Quintet; he has performed with Benny Golson's Sextet, McCoy Tyner's Sextet, the Kenny Barron Sextet, the Jimmy Heath Big Band, and the Jon Faddis Orchestra. Stafford is professor of music and director of jazz studies at Temple University and recently received its Creative Achievement Award. He is also a former member of the faculty at the Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies. He appears on five albums as a lead trumpet player, including his debut album Time to Let Go (1995), critically acclaimed Centripedal Force (1997), Fields of Gold (2000), New Beginnings (2003), and Taking Chances (2007). Between 2006 and 2007, Stafford played an integral part on Diana Krall's Grammy-nominated From this Moment On, joining with the Hamilton-Clayton Jazz Orchestra. In celebration of Jimmy Heath's 80th birthday, Stafford recorded with the Jimmy Heath Big Band for the album Turn Up the Heath (2006). As a sideman Stafford has been heard on more than 90 albums.

Sunday, October 28, 3 p.m.-Terell Stafford, Music Institute jazz faculty, and special guests

Grammy-winning trumpeter Terell Stafford collaborates with the Music Institute's acclaimed jazz studies faculty, including trumpeter Victor Garcia and percussionist Ernie Adams, joined by guest reedist Victor Goines, vocalist Tammy McCann, and the Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble.

Nichols Concert Hall

The 2012–13 season marks the 10th anniversary of Nichols Concert Hall, originally designed by noted architect Solon S. Beman as the architecturally and acoustically magnificent First Church of Christ, Scientist, located at 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, in 1912 (celebrating its centennial). Restored in 2003, the building has become Nichols Concert Hall, a state-of-the-art, 550-seat performance space and music education destination, which annually reaches approximately 15,000 people and hosts a world-class chamber music series, workshops and master classes, student recitals, and special events.  

Other highlights of the Music Institute's 10th anniversary season at Nichols Concert Hall include the internationally acclaimed Pacifica Quartet in February and pianist Sergei Babayan in April. Noteworthy annual events include Family Concerts in December and March; the Martin Luther King, Jr. concert with the Brotherhood Chorale in January; the Four Score Festival of contemporary music in March; and the third annual Emilio del Rosario Distinguished Alumni Concert, featuring violinist Rachel Barton Pine and pianist Matthew Hagle in May.

Music Institute of Chicago

The Music Institute of Chicago believes that music has the power to sustain and nourish the human spirit; therefore, our mission is to provide the foundation for lifelong engagement with music. As one of the three largest and most respected community music schools in the nation, the Music Institute offers musical excellence built on the strength of its distinguished faculty, commitment to quality, and breadth of programs and services. Founded in 1931 and one of the oldest community music schools in Illinois, the Music Institute is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Each year, the Music Institute's world-class music teachers and arts therapists provide the highest quality arts education, reaching more than 10,000 students of all ability levels, from birth to 102 years of age, at campuses in Evanston, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Winnetka, and Downers Grove and through its longstanding partnership with the Chicago Public Schools. The Music Institute also offers lessons and programs at the Steinway of Chicago store in Northbrook and early childhood and community engagement programs throughout the Chicago area and the North Shore. The Music Institute offers lessons, classes, and programs through four distinct areas: Community School, The Academy, Creative Arts Therapy (Institute for Therapy through the Arts), and Nichols Concert Hall.

The Billy Strayhorn Festival takes place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. The screening ofBilly Strayhorn: Lush Life and panel discussion take place Friday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $10. The Terell Stafford Quintet performs Saturday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m. and with the Music Institute of Chicago jazz studies faculty and special guests Sunday, October 28 at 3 p.m. Tickets to each concert are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students. A "3PASS" for all three events offers a savings of $10. Tickets are availableonline or 847.905.1500 ext. 108.

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