Jazz festival will return to Clark College in late January


After a two-year hiatus, Clark College will host its 59th rendition of its Jazz Festival later this month as 60 middle and high school jazz ensembles perform from Washington and Oregon. 

The event, scheduled for Jan. 26 through Jan. 28, will feature “three full days of exhilarating big band jazz” at the Gaiser Student Center in Vancouver, stated a news release.

Trophies will be presented to the top three jazz ensembles for middle schools and A through AAAA division high schools. Individual outstanding musician awards will also be presented at the end of each division’s preliminary competitions, stated the release. 

On the evening of Jan. 28, the Dale Beacock Memorial Sweepstakes Award will be given to one outstanding band at the festival. 

The preliminary competitions for the 2023 festival will begin on Thursday, Jan. 26. On that day, the middle schools will perform from 8 a.m. to noon followed by the Division A high school bands from 1:45 to 4:45 p.m. The finals competition for middle school and Division A begins at 6:45 p.m. 

On Friday, Jan. 27, the AA Division competition will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

That will be followed by the AAA and AAAA jazz bands, who will take to the stage starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28. 

The finals competitions will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. They will end with the trophy presentations, stated the release.

The Clark College Jazz Band, under the direction of festival director Doug Harris, is set to perform at 1 p.m. on Jan. 26, at 7:45 p.m. on Jan. 27 and at noon on Jan. 28. 

The 2020 Sweepstakes Band, Battle Ground Advanced Band, will perform at 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 under the direction of Greg McKelvey. 

Admission to the festival costs $5 per day. Clark College students and children under 12 who are accompanied by an adult will be admitted free of charge. 

The jazz festival dates back to 1962. Don Cammack, Hudson’s Bay High School’s band director, organized a one-day high school stage band invitational for schools in Clark and Skamania counties.

Organized by the Vancouver and Evergreen public schools, Fort Vancou­ver High School and Evergreen High School took turns hosting the festival each year. 

In 1970, Dale Beacock, who was then the band director at both Fort Vancouver High School and Clark Col­lege, held the invitational “Clark Stage Band Contest” for the first time at its current home on the college’s campus. The inaugural event hosted 17 high school jazz bands with preliminary competitions held in what was then known as the Gaiser Hall dining area, with finals in the gymnasium. 

Beacock’s vision of a competitive jazz showcase for schools throughout Washington and the greater Portland area pro­moted the growth of the festival, stated the release. 

In 1971, the festival grew to 32 bands and spanned two days. In 1976, the number of participating bands grew to 52 as bands from Oregon and Idaho joined. 

In 1985, Chuck Ramsey took over the reins as festival coordinator for the next 22 years. 

“Chuck’s achievements bringing consistency in the operations of the festival and increased student involvement set the groundwork for the educational enhancement, leadership, teamwork, and a sense of ownership the Clark student volunteers experience today,” stated the release. 

In 2008, Richard Inouye came onboard as the festival director. 

“His professional and educational experience has brought a new dynamic to the festival by encouraging a focus on jazz education and utilizing technology to promote community awareness, public support, and streamline festival operations,” stated the release.  

In 2012, the Clark College Jazz Festival celebrated its 50th golden anniversary. Then in 2013, the festival went international as it welcomed two bands from Tsawwassen, British Columbia. 

Today, the fes­tival welcomes over 1,200 student jazz musicians to the campus and over 3,000 people to the Vancouver area throughout the three-day event, stated the release.