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Saxophonists conference brings in both jazz and classical stars

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L. Brian Stauffer

About 1,000 saxophonists are expected to attend the North American Saxophone Alliance conference hosted by the University of Illinois.

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3/12/2014 | Dusty Rhodes, Arts and Humanities Editor | 217-333-0568;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois School of Music will host the North American Saxophone Alliance conference next weekend (March 20-22). Held biennially, the conference is expected to draw about 1,000 saxophonists – jazz and classical, amateur and professional – to participate in master classes, competitions and performances.

Featured performers include Jeff Coffin, a three-time Grammy Award winner with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, now a member of the Dave Matthews Band; Grammy award winner Brad Leali, former lead saxophonist with the Harry Connick Jr. Orchestra; Frederick Hemke and Eugene Rousseau, who have appeared as recitalists and soloists with symphony orchestras and wind ensembles around the world; the Eastman Saxophone Project; and the Capitol Quartet.

The conference opens on March 20 (Thursday) with a concerto concert featuring internationally known saxophonists Hemke, Clifford Leaman, Debra Richtmeyer, Timothy Roberts and Rousseau performing with the U. of I. Symphony Orchestra and the U. of I. Wind Ensemble at 7 p.m. at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

On March 21 (Friday), Leali will join Grammy-nominated saxophonist and composer David Bixler and Grammy-winner Chip McNeill for a concert with the U. of I. Concert Jazz Band, also at 7 p.m. at Krannert Center. Coffin performs at 7 p.m. March 22 (Saturday) at Krannert Center, with Roy “Futureman” Wooten (drummer for Béla Fleck and the Flecktones) and conference co-hosts J. Michael Holmes and Richtmeyer.

Tickets to these concerts are $12 for students, $18 for the general public, and are available through the Krannert Center box office at 217-333-6280;

The conference will include several free performances. On March 20 (Thursday) the weekly Krannert Uncorked event in the lobby of Krannert Center will feature saxophonist Clark Gibson and his “old style” jazz sextet. Gibson has played with Edgar Winter and toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. On March 22 (Saturday) at 4:30 p.m., winners of NASA’s jazz competition will perform a recital in the Krannert Center lobby. And each night of the conference concludes with a “Jazz Nightcap” beginning at 9, also in the Krannert Center lobby, hosted by McNeill or one of the guest artists.

Editor's note: For more information, visit the conference website or email Holmes:

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