The School of Music’s jazz festival has had a lengthy history at OSU. For the festival’s 38th year, it is set to honor its own with a Saturday night tribute to the late Mark Flugge, a former OSU instructor and jazz pianist and composer.
Flugge suffered from hearing loss and tinnitus,which is noise or ringing in the ears. According to his obituary in The Columbus Dispatch, the extreme discomfort led to depression for the musician. Flugge took his own life last May.
Three of his former students — Jeff Benatar, Lucas Holmes and Robert Mason — will perform during the tribute.
“I thought one of the best ways to remember and to have a tribute to a teacher is to remember that a teacher’s work continues in legacy through their students,” said professor and director of jazz studies Dr. William McDaniel.
Robert Mason, a fifth-year in jazz studies who will be performing jazz standards he learned under Flugge’s instruction, said he thinks the tribute show will showcase the impact Flugge had on his students.
“The idea that was communicated to me was to just carry on his legacy,” Mason said.
Mason said Flugge’s mentorship was not restricted to music.
“It’s not just the music lessons, but the life lessons,” Mason said. “It was like a family, it was bigger than just music or the classroom.”
Aside from the Flugge tribute, the four-day festival, starting Thursday, will showcase more than 14 other performances by OSU students and faculty, various other college and high school jazz bands and both local and national jazz artists.
McDaniel said music is something everyone can connect with.
“Music is probably the most dynamic aspect of our cultural experience,” McDaniel said. “I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t like some kind of music.”
Though the jazz festival has been held annually for almost four decades, McDaniel said each year brings changes.
“I think every year is different because there are new students who are in on it, and the old students get better and better,” McDaniel said. “I imagine that not unlike a football team, you hope things continue on and up with trajectory.”
Opening night is billed as “Divas Night” and will feature the performances of three local jazz singers: Mary McClendon, Louise Salvador and Jeanette Williams.
McDaniel said he was hoping for the ability to present these performers for years, and emphasized that their central Ohio roots do not diminish their quality.
“Sometimes local artists can be taken for granted because they are local. That does not say anything about their qualitative offering whatsoever,” said McDaniel. “They are just fabulous singers.”
Friday night will feature OSU’s Jazz Ensemble, which McDaniel has directed since 1990. Under his instruction, the group has been on four European tours and traveled to China last year.
The Jazz Ensemble’s Friday night performance will feature faculty member Kris Johnson on the trumpet as a soloist.
The University of Dayton and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music will also perform on Saturday afternoon as part of “College Jazz Band Day.” McDaniel said they will be featured alongside OSU’s jazz lab band, jazz workshop band and seven jazz combos.
A number of high school jazz ensembles will take the stage on Sunday afternoon, and Sunday night will feature New York City-based jazz band Manner Effect.
McDaniel said he was impressed by the different elements that Manner Effect brings to the jazz music scene.
“It can be bebop, post-bop, pop, hip-hop. They do a lot and their synthesis is really quite interesting,” McDaniel said. “They’re young, they’re hot and they bring lots of energy.”
Josh Davis, drummer for Manner Effect, said the band is excited about the opportunity to headline a bigger festival.
“It’s one of our first large jazz festivals where we are featured and not just one of many miscellaneous performers,” Davis said. “We’re excited about this one because we have a lot of new music that we’ve been working on that we’ll get to play for a younger audience.”
Davis said the band’s fan base, like its music, has wide variety.
“There’s no typical crowd for us. We play a pop, R&B-oriented groove with some jazz harmony and tendencies. It’s kind of a mix of a lot of things. Sometimes we get college and high school kids who like our songs, and a lot of our friends’ moms like our songs,” Davis said.
Manner Effect’s headlining concert is the only paid event in the festival. McDaniel said that it was important to present the music free of charge.
“This is our gift to the university and the general community in Columbus. We don’t want any students, especially, to be concerned about not having any money to come,” he said. “These concerts are free, and the quality is high.”