Jazz Fest History

Jazz Fest would have never gotten off the ground were it not for Bob Anderson, PSC’s director of development and community relations, and James Moore, dean of arts and sciences in the 1980s. They understood the educational value of such an event and somehow found the funds to launch it.

Bassist Bill Grimes was instrumental in helping shape the festival in its initial years.

Jazz radio celebrity Larry Smith (WBEZ) served as emcee for several years.

The first festival in 1988 featured Doug Beach, trumpet; Bunky Green, alto sax; Bill Grimes, bass; Rich Thompson, drums; Valerie Nicholson, piano. It was held in the college’s gymnasium.

Ed Petersen’s first year with the festival was 1990. Trumpeter Byron Stripling also joined the "team" that year.

Before the Business and Community Education Center was built, the evening concerts were held in the college’s cafeteria which was transformed into a night club atmosphere. A memorable moment one year was watching the maintenance crew, under the guidance of Joe Aponi, lift the 7’ Baldwin grand onto a temporary stage. Talk about commitment!

In 1995, we decided to feature an all-Chicago cast of musicians. Joining Ed Petersen, this festival featured for the first time Orbert Davis on trumpet, Jim Cox on bass, and Joel Spencer on drums.

The 1996 Jazz Fest was the first event held in the new Business andCommunity Education Center

To celebrate the festival’s 10th anniversary, jazz vocalist Kevin Mahogany came in for the concert.

The Ravinia Jazz Mentors, led by the great Willie Pickens, served as clinicians and artists in 1999. Willie was joined by Dana Hall, drums; Rob Amster, bass; the late John Watson, trombone; Pat Mallinger, tenor sax; and Orbert Davis, trumpet.

There has been only one year since 1995 that Orbert Davis couldn’t make it and that was in 2000. Art Davis (brothers in trumpethood!) came on board. That same year featured vocalist Sunny Wilkinson in celebration of the inauguration of the college’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble and included a daytime workshop for college jazz vocalists and their instructors.

PSC faculty guitar instructor Scott Reed participated occasionally when he wasn’t already booked playing Broadway shows in Chicago.

Larry Gray became a jazz fest regular in 2001.

The only time Ed Petersen was not available to participate in the festival was in 2007. While Ed Petersen is irreplaceable, Doug Stone capably filled Ed’s shoes – not an easy task!

The jazz fest has been named one of the top 20 cultural events in the south suburbs by The Star (now Southtown Star) in 2004, 2005, and 2006.