The same year the Beatles washed ashore from England, UNC music professor James Ketch was a seventh grader in the Illinois town of Peoria, the trumpeter in his own jazz combo, fretting about how they would play.
Fast forward 40 years. New students fret: how well will we play in Chapel Hill?
Ketch started the Carolina Jazz Festival in 1978, a year after he came to UNC, to meet high school directors across the state and recruit top music students. Inviting world-class artists to work with the students might also help elevate the stature and visibility of the jazz program, he thought.
The 2011 festival is the 34th. It is a permanent fixture on Carolina’s cultural landscape and a milepost passed by countless young jazz artists on their journeys toward virtuosity.
Ryan Raven, a music student studying jazz trumpet under Ketch, played at the festival all four years he attended South View High School in Fayetteville. It was exciting just coming to Chapel Hill, Raven says, but thrilling to play in front of famous jazz artists who were there to listen – and tell you how you did.
There is no higher compliment, Raven says, than after playing a piece to hear Ketch say, “That is exactly what I am talking about.”
For a few days each year, the jazz festival helps even the odds in the art’s favor.
“When an artist turns a blues phrase on the trumpet into a field holler moan, it connects a student on this campus to the pain of slavery,” Ketch said. “That’s what we can do to make jazz more than a fond remembrance of things past. It means a great deal to many of us and we hope that we can spread that meaning and feeling to others.”