The Elmhurst College Jazz Band toured Europe this summer, giving nine performances over 15 days at some of Europe’s finest and oldest jazz festivals.
The final performance of the tour was one of the most memorable. The 20-member ensemble took the stage at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, with guest conductor Ryan Truesdell, a star composer, arranger and producer. They also presented two numbers with jazz master Dee Dee Bridgewater, who has sung often with the band at June Jazz events and the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival.
It was a particularly emotional moment for vocalist Jessica Brooks ’19, who was on her first tour and sang a duet with Bridgewater. “She was one of my heroes growing up,” Brooks said. “We didn’t know if she would make it, then she popped up. After the number, I cried.”
Led by Grammy Award winner Doug Beach, the Jazz Band has toured regularly during the summer, hitting the top jazz festivals in Europe. The band performed in large venues such as the Jazz a Vienne Festival, outside Lyon in eastern France, and at the historic Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland. But the group also enjoyed the intimacy of smaller settings.
“Smaller communities rarely receive visits from big bands, so it’s special,” Beach said, adding that the audiences were warm and welcoming.
At a cultural center in Turin, Italy, the band gave a concert first to university students and then to members of the community. “The students asked us how music could bring peace,” recalled tenor saxophonist Gabby Bandera ’19.
“The crowds love live music,” said Michael Griffin ’20, a bass trombonist also on his first tour with the group. “These were some of the best audiences ever.”
The tour was bittersweet for Adam Roebuck ’17, a graduating member of the band. “It was an enlightening and fulfilling experience that every band member will cherish,” he said. “These are the moments we as musicians will look back on and be thankful for the professional opportunities we were given.”