BLOOMINGTON — A year ago this weekend, after 42 years of staying rooted in one location, Illinois Wesleyan University's annual winter jazz festival first ventured forth into the world.

The goal: to extend the long-running fest's presence into the community at large.

With the 43rd festival this weekend, the outreach endeavors are continuing apace.

Well, actually more than apace.

Where there were two outside concerts staged a year ago, this year the ante is being upped to three, says fest director Glenn Wilson.

All of the performances, which are set for Thursday and Friday, will serve as a prelude to Saturday's all-day main event in Westbrook Auditorium on campus.

The goal, says Wilson, is to broaden the festival into a community-wide event while tapping more deeply into the potential of the visiting guest artists and adjudicators.

The first of the outreach performances is set for 8 to 11 p.m. Thursday in downtown Bloomington's year-round jazz destination, Jazz UpFront, 107 W. Front St.

Friday's two community performances will be at 1:30 p.m. in Bloom Community School, 1100 N. Beech St., Normal, and at 4 p.m. in Bloomington's Western Avenue Community Center, 600 N. Western Ave.

All of the above are free and open to the public.

"These concerts will feature the IWU Jazz Festival All-Stars," notes Wilson, "with Jim Pugh (from the University of Illinois) on trombone, Todd Kelly (from Bradley University) on trumpet, Chicago jazz singer Alyssa Allgood on vocals, Mike Stryker (from Western Illinois University) on piano, Matt Hughes on bass and Tom Marko (from Illinois State University) on drums."

He adds, "Along with yours truly," handling the All-Stars' sax appeal. (Rounding out the All-Stars' reeds will be U of I saxophonist Chip McNeill.)

The 2017 festival was "my first year at IWU, so making some changes is allowed," says Wilson, who joined the faculty as an adjunct instructor in the School of Music and is probably best known locally for both his group the Jazz Maniacs and his long-running Illinois Shakespeare Festival pre-shows with Glenn Wilson & Friends.

For the festival proper, on Saturday, 19 high school and junior high jazz ensembles and vocal ensembles will perform from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Westbrook Auditorium.

At 1 p.m., it'll be time out for one of the festival's most popular components, the festival concert with the IWU Jazz Ensemble.

This year, they will be joined by IWU's vocal jazz group Unlicensed Syncopation. Also performing will be the festival's roster of clinicians (who offer comments but don't judge the non-competitive festival).

For those who want to learn more as much as hear more, the festival offers free master classes on each instrument from individual judges, from 2:15 to 3 p.m. They, like everything else, are free and open to the public.

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