Alumni return to ABAC for annual Jazz Festival

Valdosta High School band performing. Photo by Jalen Edmondson

Thirty high schools were invited to this year’s 2023 Jazz Festival to perform on ABAC’s campuses. The Valdosta Middle School band will perform at the 2023 Jazz Festival as well.

The Jazz Festival happened over a two day period, April 20-21. The first day was held here at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) on the Tifton campus, and the second day at the Bainbridge campus.

A morning session was held on April 20 outside of Edwards Hall at 10:00am, followed by a clinic/jam-session, between all the high school jazz bands inside Edwards Hall in the band room. Later came the big event, the ABAC Jazz Ensemble performed with guest performer Scotty Barnhart at 7:00pm in the Howard Auditorium.

Barnhart has been a member of the Count Basie band for 30 years now, and since 2013 director of the band. You can see him around many places traveling and teaching around the world as he is internationally known. Barnhart gave a clinic and performed with the ABAC jazz ensemble on that night.

Dr. Andrew Peal, Assistant Professor of Jazz and Theory, conducted his first Jazz Festival at ABAC.

Before the event, he said, “I’m incredibly excited for, it’s the only time of the year the jazz band really gets its own say to be featured.”

Not only will this be a big day for Peal, but it is an opportunity for ABAC students in the jazz band.

Peal said, “This will be a time for our students to be exposed to a world class musician of that caliber who’s still active in touring.”

“They’ll be getting direct feedback from the member of the Count Basie organization who gives feedback from that band.” The ABAC Jazz ensemble will perform some of the same music as the Count Basie Orchestra.”

ABAC alumni Andrew Hill directed the Valdosta High School’s band as they performed. Hill said, “It feels good to come back and support your alma mater.”

Hill has come back to attend the ABAC Jazz Festival for 16 years now. He also has a local gospel group called the “Starlights”. Three other alumni directed a high school jazz ensemble such as, Danny Ortiga director of the Madison High S, Theatus White director of Putnam HS, Curtis Kimbrough director of Valdosta Middle School.

The Jazz Festival is ABAC Presents! Performing Arts Series, the biggest event every year, and the whole community is welcome to participate in these events. You can get tickets by going online to ABAC Presents! Performing Arts Series website when the time comes.

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