Drummer and composer Dennis Mackrel will be the featured artist at the 2018 Illinois State University Jazz Festival, Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14. Both days of the festival will feature free morning and afternoon performances by junior high and high school jazz bands from across Illinois. All performances will take place in the University’s Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall.
Mackrel will perform with Illinois State’s Jazz Ensemble I both evenings at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the Center for the Performing Arts Box Office, by phone at (309) 438-2535, or online at Ticketmaster.
The Friday evening concert will include an opening performance by Illinois State’s Jazz Ensemble II, while the Saturday evening show will feature an opening performance by the grand champion in the festival’s band competition. Jazz Ensembles I and II are conducted by Tom Marko, director of jazz studies in Illinois State’s School of Music.
A child prodigy, Dennis Mackrel began playing the drums when he was two and became a professional musician at the age of 10. Mackrel was a member of the UNLV Jazz Ensemble where his drumming and arranging skills caught the attention of vocalist Joe Williams. At the age of 19, Mackrel moved to New York City and was a musician for Broadway productions such as The First and A Chorus Line. He later joined the Count Basie Orchestra on Williams’ personal recommendation. His career has also included stints with the American Jazz Orchestra, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band. In addition to being a seasoned musician, he is also a highly respected composer and arranger whose commissioned works have been recorded by the United States Military Academy at West Point’s Jazz Knights Big Band, The Temple University Jazz Ensemble, The Columbus Jazz Orchestra and, most notably, the McCoy Tyner Big Band.