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Fest Tries to Find a Youth Movement PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 20 July 2004 18:00
After 32 years, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival’s audience isn’t getting any younger. “Our crowd is usually quite old” – typically over 45 – said Ray Voss, president of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society, which runs the annual festival featuring jazz styles from the 1920s and ’30s.

But organizers have noticed that the Bix Beiderbecke Youth Jazz Band attracts a different audience – band members’ parents, siblings, and friends. “Maybe this is our future,” Voss said.

So the Bix Society twice last year brought the River City 6 into junior-high schools to perform with student ensembles in front of the entire school. The society has also established an endowment fund for education programs. It has tentatively scheduled a youth jazz festival for December. And at this weekend’s jazz festival, there will be a clinic that organizers hope will spur new interest in old-time jazz.

Part of the challenge for the Bix society is that most jazz-education programs start in the 1950s, so young people never get a sense of those earlier forms of the music. “When they get into this style of music, it really catches on,” Voss said.

The clinic will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 23, at the Davenport Holiday Inn. Voss said people of any age can “try to play along with the pros” at clinics in four areas – trumpet, trombone, reeds, and percussion – with members of Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band. “At the end of the session, we’re going to try to get them all to play together,” he said.

Of course, this is just one component of the four-day festival, with 11 jazz bands, four main venues, and plenty of other special events. New in the lineup this year are the Titanic Jazz Band and Fog City Stompers (both from California), the Creole Dixieland Jazz Band (from Missouri), and Wally’s Warehouse Waifs (from Michigan). Other performers include the St. Louis Stompers, Red Rose Ragtime Band, Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band, Barbary Coast Dixieland Jazz Band, and Queen City Jazz Band. The Quad Cities will be represented by the Bix youth band and Josh Duffee’s Orchestra.

The music kicks off Thursday at the Col Ballroom, and Friday starts the festivities in earnest, with music at the Col, in LeClaire Park, at the Davenport Holiday Inn, and at DanceLand. (For a full schedule, see the Live Music listings on page 23.)

Additional events include concerts in Bettendorf’s Middle Park (7 p.m. on Friday) and Davenport’s VanderVeer Park (Saturday at 5 p.m.); the Queen City Jazz Band at Bix’s gravesite in Oakdale Memorial Cemetery (Saturday at 10 a.m.); “101 trumpets” at 11 a.m. Saturday in LeClaire Park; and two Sunday services of jazz liturgy at First Presbyterian Church in Davenport.

Voss said the goal of the park concerts is similar to that of the education programs: to reach a new audience. “It exposes people to our kind of jazz who have an interest in the park, getting people acquainted with the music,” he said.

For more information on the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, visit (
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