Southeastern to host Bill Evans Jazz Festival

Tuesday, January 24, 2017Michael Esneault
by: Rene Abadie

Acclaimed pianist, composer and Grammy Award winner Michael Esneault will be a featured performer at Southeastern Louisiana University’s annual Bill Evans Festival to be held on campus Feb. 15-18. Information can be obtained by calling 985-549-2184.

     HAMMOND – In honor of one of its most distinguished alumni, the Southeastern Louisiana University Department of Fine and Performing Arts will present the annual Bill Evans Jazz Festival Feb. 15-18.
     The festival will feature free performances by the Alumni Jazz Ensemble, the SLU Jazz Combos, and SLU jazz faculty. All performances are free and open to the public and will be held in the Pottle Music Building Recital Hall.
     This year, the festival will feature a master class with guest artist Mike Esneault. An Emmy Award-winning pianist and composer, Esneault has enjoyed success across many mediums including television, cinema, and radio, in addition to his triumphs as a recording artist. He has recorded more than 30 scores for the Public Broadcasting Service and composed pieces for companies such as Exxon, McDonald’s and Blue Cross. His arrangements have been performed by orchestras around the world and in places such as Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. Esneault is also an accomplished clinician and teacher.
     “Mike was invited this year because he is a fine piano player, a wonderful writer and a great instructor,” said Michael Bothers, co-director for the Southeastern Jazz Ensemble and one of the festival’s coordinators. “The Jazz Ensemble will play several of his compositions in concert, which is great for our students because they will experience quality new music.”
     The festival will also include the Louisiana Association for Jazz Education (LAJE) State Music Festival, a competition with performances by area middle and high school jazz ensembles. The festival will start Friday morning and conclude Saturday at noon in the Pottle Music Building Auditorium.
     The performance schedule includes: Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m., Alumni Jazz Concert; Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m., Southeastern Jazz Combos; Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m., Southeastern Jazz Faculty Concert with guest artist Mike Esneault; Saturday, Feb. 18, 1 p.m., master class with Esneault; and 3 p.m., Southeastern Jazz Ensemble in concert with Esneault.
     Masterclasses and performances are traditional parts of the Bill Evans Jazz Festival, but this year the department will be adding a more tangible aspect. Artifacts of Evans’ will be on display in the Southeastern Contemporary Art Gallery throughout the duration of the festival. Photographs, album covers and letters written by Evans will be exhibited to showcase the jazz legends’ achievements and his history with Southeastern.
     Brothers said former Southeastern faculty member Ron Nethercutt will present a lecture Wednesday, Feb. 15, at noon on Evans in the Art Gallery located in East Stadium.
     “Bill Evans is one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, so naturally we would want to highlight his connection to Southeastern,” said Brothers.
     Many of the articles that will be on display were taken from archives maintained by the uiniversity. However, some were gathered by Brothers personally.
     “One of the letters in the exhibit has never seen the light of day until now,” he said. “Also, it took some doing, but we will have a program from the 1994 GRAMMY Awards where Evans received a Lifetime Achievement Award. We also were able to reach out to former members of the Bill Evans Trio, percussionist Marty Morell and bassist Chuck Israels for scans of photographs of Bill.”
     For additional information, call the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at 985-549-2184.

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