CHATHAM, NJ -The annual Jazz in the Middle festival of middle school jazz bands will be held Thursday, April 20 in the Chatham Middle School auditorium.

Now in its eighth year, Jazz in the Middle was the creation of CMS music teacher Christie Spriggs, who sought to provide quality performance/adjudication opportunities for middle school jazz bands. Spriggs traditionally selects April as the festival month, which is known as "Jazz Appreciation Month” (JAM) in the National community of Music Educators.

Jazz Appreciation Month was created in 2001 by Smithsonian National Museum curator Dr. John Hasse as an annual event that pays tribute to jazz as both a living and historically unique American musical art form. Music educators across the country have embraced ‘JAM’ with events ranging from free concerts to educational programs.

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New to this year’s festival will be an exhibition performance of the New Jersey Jazz Academy ensemble, the “Elefante All Star Jazz Ensemble,” under the direction of Vincent Tuturiello, which will perform a mix of jazz classics and standards to conclude the evening. Tuturiello will also serve as a festival adjudicator with Brian Conti, Director of Bands for Chatham High School and the Chatham Community Band.

Conti and Turturiello will be providing the middle school groups with valuable feedback from the high school director’s perspective, offering middle school players advice for developing individual and ensemble playing skills while encouraging their continued participation in high school jazz programs. Turturiello will lead the NJ Jazz Academy students and school band directors in an exciting exhibition performance to finish off the evening.

Supported by Elefante Music of New Providence and the Chatham Performing Arts Boosters, the evening offers food and entertainment. Representatives from Steinway & Sons, D’Addario -USA Instruments, reed manufacturer Rico, and an on-site instrument repair demonstration courtesy of Elefante Music will also be included in the evening.

Doors will open at 5:15 p.m. General admission is $3.00. All proceeds will benefit the district Performing Arts programs.

Performance schedule:

5:30- Chatham Middle School Jazz Band

6:00- William Annin MS Jazz Band(Basking Ridge)

6:30- Alexandria MS Jazz Band (Pittstown, NJ)

7:00- Park MS Jazz Band (Scotch Plains)

7:30- Frelinghuysen MS Jazz Band (Morristown)

8:00- Terrill MS Jazz Band (Scotch Plains)

8:30- “Elefante All Star Jazz Ensemble" from the New Jersey Jazz Academy (exhibition)

9:00- Awards Presentation