WIU’s Jazz Band continues Friday pop-up concerts this spring

By JENNA SKARLUPKA, Reporter

MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS3) – Western Illinois University’s Jazz Band is building on the success of its Fall 2020 pop-up concerts by bringing the series to the spring semester.

The pop-up concerts originated last semester when the jazz program directors looked for ways to continue performances amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials with the College of Fine Arts and Communication responded positively to the idea of outdoor performances, which Jazz Studies director John Cooper said was a creative feat.

“The whole COVID thing has sort of forced us to think creatively about how we gather and what’s possible,” Cooper said. “Sometimes when you’re faced with that proposition, you stumble on some things that are pretty cool.”

Although the concerts are structured around current COVID-19 restrictions, Cooper said the outdoor element is “charming” and reminiscent of European culture. George Turner, WIU’s director of Jazz Combos, said there are plans to continue the concert series post-COVID because of the vibrancy it brings to campus.

“It’s sort of more fun and allows more potential for people to kind of come by and be like, ‘Oh wow, a jazz band is playing,’ and so maybe there’s just more exposure,” Turner said.

Students play a large part in picking the pieces for the concerts, which will include some of their original compositions. Vocalists and band members will perform a variety of classic, be-bop, funk, R&B, Latin and more jazz styles. 

In addition to the campus community dropping by the concerts, Cooper said community members have dropped by for “community socialization” and a sense of normalcy. Their positive response is another reason to continue the concert series once restrictions are lifted.

“The people that I’ve heard from…have said what a wonderful thing it is, that they really enjoy it, and so we’re glad to be able to continue doing this,” Cooper said.

The pop-up concerts will take place at 1 p.m. on Fridays in March and April on the Browne Hall Quad, as weather permits.