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UMSL stepped out to get jazz conference rolling

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 31, 2010 - On May 18-22, the first ever Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference took place at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. The Conference was attended by more than 1,200 music students, educators, musicians and industry professionals. The event came together as a way to replace the annual jazz conference presented by the International Association of Jazz Educators, an organization that went under in 2008.

Originally, the JEN board of directors planned to present its initial conference in early 2011. But many of the members thought time was of the essence - and a major event had to held in 2010.

Jim Widner, coordinator of jazz studies at UMSL, stepped to the plate and offered the university's facilities - including the two venues at the Touhill Performing Arts Center as well as the many conference rooms available at UMSL's Student Center.

Despite concerns about how quickly the conference came together from initial planning sessions in late 2009 to a complete five-day event filled with performances, workshops, lectures, seminars and impromptu jam sessions.

The success of the first JEN Conference in May set the stage for the follow up event, set for New Orleans just a few days from now on Jan. 6-8, 2011. Area musician and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Professor Reggie Thomas will be presenting a workshop on theory for teaching improvisation, and other educators and students from SIUE, UMSL, Webster University, Washington University and other area schools will be in attendance.

Terry Perkins is a freelance journalist who writes, among other topics, about music. 

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