UPDATE: March 20-21 Jacquet Jazz Festival has been...

UPDATE: March 20-21 Jacquet Jazz Festival has been canceled

(Updated March 12: This year’s Illinois Jacquet Jazz Festival has been canceled due to coronavirus precautions and in line with social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn more.)

Three jazz greats, including an MTSU alumnus, will join MTSU School of Music jazz faculty March 20-21 to teach area student musicians and perform in concerts at the university’s annual Illinois Jacquet Jazz Festival.

MTSU 2020 Illinois Jacquet Jazz Festival poster

Click on the poster to see a larger version.

The visits by saxophonist and MTSU grad Cord Martin, saxophonist Gary Smulyan and trumpeter Casey Brefka are “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for jazz students and audiences to experience,” said Jamey Simmons, director of MTSU’s Jazz Studies Program.

Tickets for the concerts are $10 each for the public and free for MTSU students, faculty and staff with current IDs. Discounts for area band students and educators are also available.

Most of the festival events are planned for MTSU’s Wright Music Building at 1439 Faulkinberry Drive. A campus map is available at

Cord Martin of Columbia, Tenn., saxophonist and MTSU music education graduate

Cord Martin

Saxophonist Martin is scheduled for the festival’s first concert Friday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m., when he’ll perform in Hinton Hall in the Wright Building with MTSU professors Matt Endahl on piano, Derrek Phillips on drums and Jonathan Wires on bass.

A 2010 MTSU music education graduate, Martin is Whitthorne Middle School’s co-director of bands in Columbia, Tennessee, and performs and records in the Nashville area. He also conducts the Ethos Jazz Ensemble, a Middle Tennessee audition-based youth jazz ensemble.

Brefka, a mainstay of the Nashville jazz scene, will perform with MTSU’s Jazz Ensemble II in concert at noon Saturday, March 21, in the Wright Building’s Instrumental Rehearsal Hall, Room 173. The bandleader, arranger and composer will also share his expertise with visiting student ensembles throughout the day.

He currently plays trumpet for the Chris Weaver Band and Hey, Listen! and is the musical director and frontman for the renowned Music City Big Band. The Berklee College of Music alumnus and former professor also instructs Murfreesboro’s Siegel High School after-school jazz band.

Smulyan will showcase his saxophone style with MTSU’s Jazz Ensemble I in concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Hinton Hall. He’ll also present a free pre-concert jazz clinic at 4:30 p.m. in the same location.

saxophonist Gary Smulyan

Gary Smulyan

trumpeter Casey Brefka, guest at the MTSU School of Music’s 2020 Illinois Jacquet Jazz Festival

Casey Brefka

A faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music and a repeat saxophonist of the year in multiple critics’ polls, Smuylan has released 13 of his own albums, been part of six Grammy-winning projects and performs with the famed Vanguard Jazz Orchestra as well as his own band and other artists.

MTSU’s annual Jazz Festival offers area middle and high school instrumental and vocal students an individual focus on the jazz style and the art of jazz improvisation.

MTSU students and area schools’ jazz ensembles will participate in concerts and clinics led by faculty members and guests throughout the two-day festival.

The School of Music renamed the event in 2016 to honor American jazz tenor saxophonist Jean-Baptiste “Illinois” Jacquet, who died in 2004 after a storied 60-year-plus career that deeply influenced artists in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll.

The Illinois Jacquet Foundation established a scholarship in 2014 in the artist’s name for jazz students at MTSU. The 2020 scholarship recipient will be announced at the festival.

Illinois Jacquet Foundation logo“The Illinois Jacquet Foundation offers scholarships to jazz music students at some of the most prestigious institutions throughout the United States and ultimately empowers them to make a positive and powerful impact on the future of jazz,” said foundation president Pamela Jacquet Davis. “Our scholarship program, along with education, is at the core of our mission.”

School of Music new logoTo reserve tickets for the concerts, call Simmons at 615-898-2724 or email

For more information about the Illinois Jacquet Foundation, visit

For details on other MTSU School of Music performances and events, call 615-898-2493 or visit the “Concert Calendar” link.

— Gina E. Fann (

The late jazz tenor saxophonist Jean-Baptiste “Illinois” Jacquet, shown here at a 1998 concert at Brecon, Wales, is the focus at MTSU’s 2020 Illinois Jacquet Jazz Festival, set Friday and Saturday, March 20-21. (Photo by William Ellis)

The late jazz tenor saxophonist Jean-Baptiste “Illinois” Jacquet, shown here at a 1998 concert at Brecon, Wales, is the focus at MTSU’s 2020 Illinois Jacquet Jazz Festival, set Friday and Saturday, March 20-21. (Photo by William Ellis)