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More than 70 bands performing in Pittsburg today

More than 70 high school and middle school bands are performing in Pittsburg today during the 44th Annual Pittsburg State University Jazz Festival, which will culminate in a public concert featuring the Stan Kenton Legacy Band from Los Angeles. 

Started in 1974 by Professor of Music Russell Jones with just 14 bands, the festival has evolved into what is believed to be the biggest one-day jazz festival in the Midwest, according to Professor of Music Robert Kehle, who now directs it. 

Kehle, a longtime noted trombonist in his own right, said that the festival exists to allow young musicians to share their love of jazz through performance, to learn from talented music educators, and to experience jazz in a concert setting. 

Past performers of the event's culminating evening concert have included noted drummer Louis Bellson, trumpet great Maynard Ferguson, the Count Basie Band, and Doc Severinsen, among others 

“It is rare for students growing up in the middle of the U.S. to have an opportunity to hear and learn from some of these legendary jazz figures, Kehle said. 

This year's middle and high school bands in attendance range from large schools from Kansas City, Springfield, Tulsa and Wichita, as well as bands from districts close to home, including Joplin, Baxter Springs, Galena, Carthage Carl Junction, Webb City, Pittsburg, and Cherokee. 

Beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing throughout the day, those bands are taking turns performing for a group of experienced educators and judges in two venues: in the City of Pittsburg's Memorial Auditorium downtown, and in the Dotty and Bill Miller Theatre and the Lee and Linda Scott Performance Hall at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts on campus. Those performances are open to the public at no charge. 

The festival will conclude with a ticketed concert at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium, 503 N. Pine. Pittsburg State's Jazz One, directed by Kehle, will open the concert. The Stan Kenton Legacy Band from Los Angeles will follow Jazz One. The Legacy Band includes alumni from the 1956-1978 Stan Kenton Orchestra, in addition to new members, and tours the U.S. each year. 

Band leader Mike Vax has notable credits including being the first trumpet, soloist, and road manager of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, leading the Dukes of Dixieland in New Orleans, and producing or directing more than 50 jazz festivals. He has performed around the world. 

Tickets are required for the evening concert and are $15 for adults and $10 for children and seniors. Discounted tickets for PSU students, faculty, and staff are available, with valid PSU ID, purchased and picked up in person, at the PSU Ticket Office in Room 137 of the Weede Physical Education Building. They also may be purchased at 620-235-4796,, or at the door the evening of the performance, if available. As of Thursday, March 1, approximately 100 tickets remained.

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