An event-record 1,300 classical and jazz saxophonists — professional and amateur — are on the University of Illinois campus for the 2014 North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial National Conference, co-hosted by UI saxophone Professor Debra Richtmeyer and J. Michael Holmes, director of admissions for the UI School of Music. The last conference in Arizona drew 600. "The ones in the Midwest tend to have more people because the Midwest is the mecca for classical saxophone and is centrally located," Richtmeyer said. Here's more:
1 So what does this mean for you? Well, there are conference events, four competitions and three concerts today. The concerts are open to the public; two are free. A day pass — $60 for adults and $40 for students — allows you into all conference events today, including the 7 p.m. ticketed concert at Krannert's Foellinger Great Hall. Tickets for it: $18 for adults; $12, students. The show will feature legendary classical saxophonists Frederick Hemke, who taught at Northwestern for 50 years, and Eugene Rousseau, who taught at Indiana and is now at Minnesota.
2 Closing the 7 p.m. concert are five-time Grammy winner Jeff Coffin, a jazz-rock saxophonist who played with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and is now with the Dave Matthews Band; and drummer Roy "Futureman" Wooten, a three-time Grammy winner. Among others performing in that show: Richtmeyer and Holmes, with pianist Casey Dierlam; The Moanin' Frogs, a sax sextet doing '20s vaudeville music; and the Eastman Saxophone Project, the country's first conductor-less sax ensemble. Richtmeyer promises different genres and a lot of fun.
3 At 4:30 p.m. today, the free concert at Stage 5 in the Krannert lobby features first-place winners of the conference competitions: best solo, best quartet, best high school solo and best jazz solo. The other free concert, a Jazz Nightcap at 9 p.m. at Stage 5, will feature Coffin and other conference presenters and the SSG Trio — UI faculty Chip Stephens, Joel Spencer and Larry Gray. Host is Grammy winner Brad Leali, who was musical director/lead alto player for Harry Connick Jr., played with the Clark Terry Big Band and was a soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra.
4 The three-day conference celebrates the 200th birthday of Adolphe Sax, a Belgian musical instrument designer and musician who invented the sax. A musicale at 2 p.m. today in Krannert's Great Hall will celebrate music from Sax's era but is open to conference participants only. All conference events will feature a variety of music from the late 1800s to contemporary times, plus premieres of new compositions and educational events in multiple venues, starting at 8 a.m. today. Conference headquarters, where you buy a day pass, is the Krannert lobby, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U.