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Illinois Wesleyan Director of Jazz highlights importance of jazz history and programs

Written by on February 20, 2024

Story written by Logan O’Brien

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – After a successful Jazz Festival at Illinois Wesleyan University earlier this month, Director of Jazz Reginald Lewis Ph.D., has plenty of events for his jazz students and explains why teaching jazz is important today.

As Director of Jazz, Lewis stays busy as he has the role of making connections for his students so they can perform at different places to display their ability. Lewis listed off his responsibilities which range from teaching to finding events for his students.

“I’m the contact of all jazz resources. I’m in charge of getting the festivals together,” he said. “I get contacted by other spaces on campus for live music and I usually get my students to perform at these events. I also deal with getting them into jazz festivals.”

Jazz is of great importance to Lewis since he was inspired by his grandparents since a young age and explained why it is important to keep teaching and preserve the culture of jazz in today’s world.

He said, “It’s important to keep the tradition going. It’s a music that we fought to play, that we fought for. A music that we were allowed to play, but we weren’t allowed to be in the areas it was played. It is a tradition that should never be forgotten. I feel like jazz is one of those things that needs to be preserved.”

Lewis explained that Wesleyan’s Jazz Band has another event this week, spanning from Thursday, Feb. 22 – Sunday Feb. 25, which is the Elmhurst University Jazz Festival. Here the students will be able to show their talents to their peers while competing.

“February twenty-fourth is the Elmhurst Jazz Festival where we will be taking the jazz band up there to perform, and you know it’s like a competition … and on March 2nd the jazz band will be playing at an event on campus at the Young Main Lounge,” he said.

Lewis’s love for jazz shines through his teaching and initiative to book performances for his students. Lewis also said takes his students everywhere he can to display their talent and share their abilities and believes it is vital to preserve this music.