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Jim Widner Big Band to perform Friday night

Friday, October 16, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Jim Widner. As part of the “We Always Swing” jazz series, the Jim Widner Big Band and special guest Bobby Watson will perform a scholarship benefit concert at 8 p.m. at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, 203 S. Ninth St.

COLUMBIA — For the first time, the music departments from three of the four University of Missouri System campuses will be hosting a collaborative concert Friday night.

As part of the “We Always Swing” jazz series, the Jim Widner Big Band and special guest Bobby Watson will perform a scholarship benefit concert at 8 p.m. at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, 203 S. Ninth St.

IF YOU GO

What: Jim Widner Big Band

When: 8 p.m.

Where: Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, 203 S. Ninth St.

More info: To learn more about the series or buy tickets, visit www.wealwaysswing.org or call (573) 449-3001.



Each of the three university directors, from University of Missouri-St. Louis, University of Missouri-Kansas City, and MU, picked one current student to play at the concert.

"We're going to showcase a student from each campus," he said. "These students represent the future of jazz, so people can see we're in good hands."

Widner, an MU graduate and coordinator of jazz studies at UMSL, originally conceived of the idea. 

“I’ve been thinking for some time about what we could do, collectively, with the three jazz programs in the Missouri system,” Widner said. 

He thought Columbia, because of its central location and connection to the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series, was an ideal spot for the concert. 

“I thought we could hold it in the Missouri Theatre,” Widner said. “And then, after Jon Poses with ‘We Always Swing’ agreed to put us in the series, it just made sense to be in Columbia.” 

He also wanted to create an event that would benefit jazz students. Thanks to the concert’s sponsors, proceeds will be split equally among student scholarships at the three universities. 

He met with Robert Shay, MU director of the School of Music, who began working to get the event approved. 

“I thought holding it in Columbia was a great idea because Jim has some ties to Columbia as an alum, and there’s already a strong jazz scene in the town,” Shay said. 

Jon Poses, the executive director of the “We Always Swing” jazz series, said he was excited to work with the three schools.

“It’s important to note that the ‘We Always Swing’ Jazz Series does not receive any of the proceeds,” Poses said. “We help coordinate the box office, promote the event and list it as a special event within our 2009-2010 programming. But it was really Jim’s idea.” 

Bobby Watson, the Grammy-nominated musician and director of  jazz studies at UMKC,  finds it significant that the three state universities are collaborating on the benefit concert.

"Jazz will never die. There are a lot of young people playing all around the world," Watson said.

Since many original jazz venues no longer exist, he believes universities provide an important context for students to get training.

"A lot of the opportunities I had when I was young don't exist anymore. There are not as many working jazz bands," Watson said.

"So the schools provide a place for them to work on their craft, have jam sessions and come into contact with people who have played for a long time."


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