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Eau Claire Jazz Festival announces guest artists

 The 52nd annual Eau Claire Jazz Festival will be held April 20 and 21, and once again the campus and city will come alive with the sounds of jazz music.

The two-day festival, sponsored this year by Eastman Music, Schmitt Music and Royal Credit Union, brings more than 100 regional youth and college bands to UW-Eau Claire to perform and compete. Along with various guest clinicians on campus, the event features the downtown 52nd Street celebration and the headline shows at the State Theatre.

Jazz Fest director Gweni Smith is excited for this year's event, stating, "Things have grown so much this year. We have more than 130 high school, middle school and college bands coming for our educational programming, and 18 venues hosting 60 bands playing for the public at 52nd Street. It's amazing to see the two facets of education and community come together for one weekend of jazz-oriented events in Eau Claire."

Guest artists and headliner shows

This year's headlining performers are two prolific jazz greats, saxophonist Bob Minzter and percussionist Bobby Sanabria.

Tickets for the headliner concerts are $10 for students and $25 for the general public, and can be purchased at or at the door if still available.

Bob Mintzer is known as a "triple-threat musician," equally accomplished in the areas of performance, composing/arranging and music education. While touring with the Yellowjackets, his own quartet, or a big band, he is busy writing music for big and small bands, saxophone quartets, as well as orchestral and concert band music.

Mintzer is on faculty at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he teaches jazz composition and saxophone, directs the Thornton Jazz Orchestra and conducts a jazz workshop class for incoming freshmen and sophomore jazz students. In addition, he conducts regular workshops on a national calendar, has published books on a variety of musical subjects, plays on countless recordings every year, and acts as guest conductor and soloist at venues around the globe.

Headlining with Mintzer is Bobby Sanabria, a multiple Grammy-nominated drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, recording artist and conductor who has performed with a "Who's Who" list of jazz-world greats. His diverse performing and recording experience includes work with renowned artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Paquito D'Rivera, Charles McPherson, Mongo Santamaría and the Godfather of Afro-Cuban Jazz, Mario Bauzá.

Sanabria, the son of Peurto Rican parents in the South Bronx, was inspired and encouraged by fellow Puerto Rican Tito Puente. He graduated from Berklee College of Music, where he also has received the prestigious Faculty Association Award for his work as an instrumentalist. His music has been featured on Grammy-nominated albums and movie soundtracks, and he has been a guest conductor and soloist across the globe.

52nd Street Celebration

Downtown Eau Claire will be jam-packed with jazz the evening of April 20 from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Sponsored by Royal Credit Union, 52nd Street is a re-creation of the historic 52nd Street of New York City in the 1930s and ’40s, where jazz greats like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong sat in with different ensembles in a variety of nightclubs. More than 60 bands will perform in 16 club venues along Barstow Street throughout the night to create a rich, lively atmosphere for attendees to be transferred back to this thriving era of jazz music.

Wristbands for 52nd Street are $10 and will be sold at kiosks along Barstow Street. One wristband provides all-night access to all of the venues. An eclectic mix of 21+ and all-ages venues will ensure that everyone can partake in the 52nd Street experience.

See the full schedule of 52nd Street performers and venues.

Jazz education activities

The Eau Claire Jazz Festival will include various public educational opportunities, including master clinics and interviews held by guest artists and festival adjudicators. More than 100 regional middle school, high school and college bands will participate in competition and non-competition categories during the festival. All of these activities are free of charge and will take place on the UW-Eau Claire campus. Find more information on the Eau Claire Jazz website.

About Eau Claire Jazz

Eau Claire Jazz Inc. is a nonprofit 501c3 organization with a mission to educate, entertain, promote and perpetuate the worldwide cultural experience of jazz. The organization was formed in 2008 to partner with UW-Eau Claire to continue and expand the long history of the Eau Claire Jazz Festival. We provide exciting and authentic jazz experiences, inspiring audiences to build a lifelong appreciation for the art form. The Eau Claire Jazz board of directors includes local individuals with an interest in promoting youth through the jazz festival and in promoting jazz in all its myriad forms. Eau Claire Jazz promotes and manages the Eau Claire Jazz Festival, 52nd Street and Gatsby’s Gala events.

For more information, contact Robert Baca, director of jazz studies at UW-Eau Claire, at 715-836-4371 or; or Gweni Smith, Eau Claire Jazz Festival director, at 608-333-2633 or