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All that USF jazz

From the Phyllis P. Marshall Center to the Library, the sounds of jazz filled the air Saturday during the USF Jazz & Art Fest ’03.

The event took place on the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza lawn from noon to 6 p.m. and was a revised version of the old USF Jazz Fest that last took place in the spring of 2000. The former Jazz Fest featured professional jazz acts and was created to attract jazz fans.

Christopher Devitt, the fine arts director for the Campus Activities Board, decided to resurrect the fest by focusing more on the USF community.

“I thought the idea sounded interesting, but I thought it should feature our own musicians from USF,” Devitt said. “We have awesome talent on this campus among the students and faculty. I really want to stress that this year’s event is for USF.”

Devitt also said he wanted to find bands representing jazz on a university level, a community level and a national level.

Devitt said he was extremely impressed with the musicians and artists, as well as the overall turnout for the Jazz & Art Fest, even though only 300 people attended, 200 fewer than expected.

“The audience was excited and entertained by every band that took the stage, and this truly makes the event a success in my eyes,” Devitt said.

Jazz Ensemble I was the first group to perform, showcasing some of USF’s finest jazz musicians.

“I think they played very well,” Katie Askew, a junior and former high school jazz musician, said. “They were up there for over an hour and still sounded good. They finished strong.”

Immediately following the ensemble was the USF Jazztet, a seven-piece group that will perform at jazz festivals in Europe this summer. Around 3 p.m., Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge took to the stage, representing the local jazz scene, as well as the university.

“A lot of people may not know it, but Chuck Owen is a professor of jazz studies right here at USF,” Devitt said. “His group already has CDs out and has been recognized on the national jazz scene.”

The Mike MacArthur Group, a popular local group that has played at various venues across the nation, was the last of the performers.

Another new element for 2003 was the addition of an artist exhibition area. Artists from the university and community displayed their art on campus. While the sale of art was prohibited on campus due to licensing restrictions, it was a good opportunity for the artists to make contacts and get some opinions on their pieces, Devitt said.

“I’ve been in competitions, but I’ve never just displayed my work before,” David Lawson, a senior majoring in studio art, said. “I want to get some feedback from people and make sure my friends aren’t just blowing smoke up my a– when they tell me they like my stuff.”

As for next year’s event, Devitt said he wants to have more artists’ displays and the ability to let the artists sell their work. He also said he hopes to book a big name in the jazz scene to not only perform but also offer a clinic. Devitt’s main goal, however, is to boost attendance by increasing the student body’s awareness of the talent USF has to offer.

“By appreciating and endorsing the arts at USF as a treasure, we will begin to move beyond the tarnished past, reconcile and embrace diversity and glow with the promise of a creative future,” Devitt said.

Contact Rebecca Markleyat