USF brings jazz to Monday nights

The USF School of Music is bringing world-class jazz musicians to USF through the Monday Night Jazz Series. The concert series will give the community an opportunity to see these performers live, with students playing alongside them. 

“USF Monday Night Jazz Series is a guest-artist series where we bring in world-class jazz artists to play with either the student groups or faculty groups,” said Jack Wilkins, director of USF jazz studies. “Then they also come and work with the students, like a master’s class, or they come in and do rehearsals or they teach.” 

The Monday Night Jazz Series began in 1996 and is held on the last Monday of every month, from September to April. The first show will be held tonight at 7:30 in the USF Concert Hall. 

“We always had a guest-artist series and for a little while we were just doing one artist per semester,” Wilkins said. “We thought it would make sense to start a series and tried to find a night that was not being used for other things.” 

In addition to the jazz artists from around the country, each concert features the USF Jazz Ensemble and the USF Jazztet, which played a European Jazz Festival Tour in the United Kingdom during the summer. 

“There is no amount of learning you can do in a classroom that is better than experiencing professionals coming in and playing with you,” said Eli Ponder-Twardy, a jazz studies major and Jazztet Member. “… It is nothing that you can put in a textbook.” 

Gary Smulyan, a well-known jazz artist who plays the baritone saxophone, will kick off this year’s series. He is currently the baritone saxophonist for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, in addition to having played with the Dave Holland Big Band and Octet, and the Dizzy Gillespie All- Star Big Band. 

“The series gives people a chance to hear these world-class jazz artists that come to Tampa when they may not otherwise,” Wilkins said. 

Smulyan is one of the few featured jazz artists set to perform this year, and is certainly not the first well-known jazz artist to perform in the series. Other artists including Maria Schneider and Jim Snidero have also performed at USF’s Monday Night Jazz. 

“One thing the arts do an outstanding job of is getting people more invested in their communities, and that translates to economic well-being and people being more involved where they live,” Ponder-Twardy said. 

Whether people have listened to jazz for years or if they have never listened to it before, this series allows the community to get more involved with USF and the School of Music. 

“World-class jazz is something that the School of Music and the jazz program can do for the community,” Wilkins said. 

The next Monday Night Jazz concert will be a tribute to jazz composer and pianist Horace Silver. 

Tickets can be purchased online at, or over the phone in advance for $8-12. They can also be purchased at the box office the night of the show for $10- 15.