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On Center: Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center big band will play at Penn State April 2

by on February 28, 2020 3:45 PM

When Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performs next month at Eisenhower Auditorium, the musicians will be building a case for great compositions being comparable to masterful architecture.

In Masters of Form: From Mingus to Monk, the New York City orchestra and trumpeter-artistic director Marsalis will play music by Jelly Roll Morton, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, and George Russell from a new angle.

With orchestra trombonist Vincent Gardner providing the music direction, the band will begin the April 2 concert by performing some of the most expertly structured pieces in the jazz canon. The band will emphasize the layering and attention to form that allowed those composers to construct such expressive and enduring music.

After intermission, the program will build upon the concept with a performance of Usonian Structures. It’s a new suite created by Andy Farber, one of the best big band composers and arrangers working today. The creations of architect Frank Lloyd Wright inspired the suite. Each movement is an interpretation or impression of one of Wright’s iconic designs. 

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal discussion moderated by State College jazz musician Rick Hirsch and featuring Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra musicians Farber (tenor saxophone and clarinet) and Vincent Gardner (trombone), will be offered one hour before the performance and is free for ticketholders. Artistic Viewpoints regularly fills to capacity, so seating is available on a first-arrival basis.

The orchestra will be making its eighth appearance at Penn State. Marsalis, who has visited the university with the big band and smaller ensembles, will perform on the Eisenhower stage for the ninth time.

In addition to the concert, Marsalis and the orchestra will be in residence for four days at Penn State. The residency, hosted by the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State and the university’s School of Music, will include a variety of engagement opportunities with students and members of the community. The band will also perform a School-Time Matinee program, Jazz for Young People: Who is Dave Brubeck?, for children from throughout central Pennsylvania.

Last month, the Center for the Performing Arts brought half a dozen Jazz at Lincoln Center teaching artists to the region as part of Let Freedom Swing, a history-based music program for children in grades 4–8. During three days in early February, the musicians worked with a total of about 500 students by visiting schools in Mount Union, Huntingdon, Clearfield, State College, and Bellefonte. 


Geisinger sponsors the concert. The Sidney and Helen S. Friedman Endowment provides support. This event is part of a season focus, The American Experience: Through an African-American Lens. Sandra Zaremba and Richard Brown provide support for engagement programs related to the focus.

For tickets or information, go to or call (814) 863-0255.

John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts.





John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.
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