Scholars, artists, curators, activists, local historians and members of the public will convene at Syracuse University Oct. 6-7 to discuss the rightful place of monuments in our society and the increasing complexity they represent today in terms of their cultural,…
Get Ready for Jazz Fest This Weekend; University Performers Take the Stage
Syracuse will be the place for the sweet sounds of jazz June 22-25 for the city’s 37th annual Jazz Fest—and the Orange has a special role to play in this year’s event.
During this ever-popular Central New York festival, musical members of the University community will perform as part of the lineup: the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (BCCE), the Orange Juice advanced jazz combo and the Syracuse University Jazz and Commercial Music Faculty Ensemble. The University will also host a special gospel event, with a welcome luncheon.
Hendricks Chapel will present “Return to Community: A Sunday Gospel Jazz Service” to close out Jazz Fest on Sunday, June 25, at 3 p.m. The public will hear performances from the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble, the Dillard University Concert Choir (New Orleans) and a community choir. The first-of-its-kind program will offer a dynamic and inclusive spiritual experience that fuses and celebrates gospel and jazz music. A luncheon will be held beginning at 12:30 p.m. on the Shaw Quad. The program and luncheon are both free of charge; the luncheon is available for the first 1,000 attendees.
“To host the Sunday Gospel Jazz Service on the campus of Syracuse University is an honor and joy, as Syracuse Jazz Fest is widely known and respected, and we at Hendricks Chapel hope to contribute in ways that celebrate music and build unity in ways that are memorable and meaningful,” says Brian Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel. “The Dillard University Concert Choir, Black Celestial Choral Ensemble and Syracuse-area Community Choir will unite to provide a wondrous and welcoming experience that acclaims the splendor of gospel and jazz music, sparks spiritual renewal and blesses our beloved community.”
Founded in 1977 by Seretta C. McKnight to provide a spiritual home for Black students at Syracuse University, the BCCE ministers through Gospel music that fosters and supports academic excellence at a university welcoming to all. Led by student director Gabrielle Pinkney ’24 and supported through The Alumni Group (TAG) of the BCEE, the choir has performed at numerous venues throughout North America.
“What an absolutely amazing time for Syracuse Jazz Fest to close with a Return to Community: A Gospel Jazz Service Experience at Hendricks Chapel. As we all know Hendricks Chapel is the heart of Syracuse University and the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble is its soul,” McKnight says. “As we look and see all the challenges we are facing in our communities and around the country, this music experience, merging the Gospel—good news—and jazz—a smooth groove—is just the balm needed for such a time as this.”
To honor the gospel service theme of “Return to Community,” a diverse community choir composed of Syracuse area residents will be led by Cora Thomas, known locally as the “First Lady of Gospel Music.” Born and raised in Syracuse, Thomas supports numerous community organizations and hosts “Sunday Morning Gospel” on WAER.
“This is the premiere year for us to celebrate gospel music through the Syracuse community at large and renowned talents of Dillard University Choir,” Thomas says. “I want to see the city come alive, people come together as a community with BCCE and Dillard University and be enthralled by this epic event.”
The nationally renowned Dillard University Concert Choir features vibrant student voices from across North America. The choir recently performed for the Historically Black College and University All-Star Game and the National Association for Law Placement Annual Education Conference.
Earlier in the Jazz Fest festivities, the Orange Juice advanced jazz combo, made up of students in the Setnor School of Music, will perform from 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, at the Visit Syracuse Stage in Hanover Square.
An advanced jazz combo featuring instrumental and vocal performers, Syracuse University Orange Juice performs regularly in concerts on campus and at University and community events. The group is vocalist McKenna Fenimore ’25, Joseph King ’25 on saxophone, Xaden Nishimitsu ’26 on trumpet, keyboardist Sam Ronan ’23, Luke Brady ’25 on bass and Grady Collingbourne ’24 on drums.
The student musicians are looking forward to performing—and being part of an event that includes Grammy Award-winning jazz artists Herbie Hancock and Gladys Knight and other national and international artists.
“We’re excited to hear the big jazz greats coming to the ‘Cuse!” Nishimitsu says.
The Syracuse University Jazz and Commercial Music Faculty Ensemble will play on the Amazon Stage in Clinton Square from 4 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 24. Both groups are housed in the Setnor School of Music in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Syracuse University Faculty Ensemble are members of the Setnor School of Music Jazz and Commercial Music department faculty and alumni. Their performances will feature new arrangements and compositions. The group is musical director and saxophonist Mike Dubaniewicz, John Hasselback III on trumpet, Daniel Mach-Holt on trombone, Nick Abelgore on keyboards, Rick Balestra on guitar, Matt Vacanti on bass and Allan Ward on drums.
The headlining Jazz Fest performers are Grammy Award-winning jazz artists Herbie Hancock and Gladys Knight. Other national and international artists and a collection of local acts will also play as part of the free five-day festival.