Annual Jazz Festival to Feature Pianist Tony Suggs
January 12, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University will host its 32nd annual Jazz Festival
on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007. Throughout the day, 30 high school and junior high jazz
bands will perform in the Main Lounge of Memorial Center and Westbrook Auditorium
of Presser Hall. At 12:45 p.m., guest pianist Tony Suggs will give a concert in Westbrook
Auditorium of Presser Hall.
All events are free and open to the public. Suggs' concert also will be broadcast
live online: View the Webcast.
Coordinated by Thomas Streeter, IWU professor of brass instruments and theory, the
Jazz Festival is an opportunity for high school and junior high jazz ensembles to
perform in a non-competitive setting and receive feedback from a panel of adjudicators,
or judges. Since its inception in 1976, the festival has featured a concert by a
guest musician in addition to the performances by student ensembles.
This year’s guest, Suggs, a native of East St. Louis, Ill., started playing piano
at his church at the age of 12 and was introduced to big band jazz as a teenager.
In high school Suggs learned the art of “swing” from director Ronald Carter, currently
director of jazz studies at Northern Illinois University and one of the judges for
IWU’s Jazz Festival. In 1989, Suggs won the Illinois All State Music Composition
contest, an honor that led to a full scholarship at Jackson State University of Mississippi.
In 1990, Suggs started a summer job as an orchestra pianist with Carnival Cruise Lines,
where he continued to build an impressive reputation throughout the 1990s.
Suggs performed one number with the Count Basie Orchestra when Jackson State University
opened for the ensemble in 1991. After the performance, he became friends with George
Caldwell, Count Basie Orchestra’s pianist at the time, and took over his position
in 1999. Since joining the Count Basie Orchestra, Suggs has played with such artists
as Nancy Wilson, Jon Hendricks, Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices and French entertainer
Suggs’ other projects include work on Russell Gunn’s Grammy nominated Ethnomusicology Volume 2, Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor and Jeri Brown’s Canadian Grammy nominated Firm Roots.
For additional information about the Jazz Festival, contact the Illinois Wesleyan
University School of Music Office at (309) 556-3061.
Contact: Rebecca Welzenbach, (309) 556-3181