Each spring, the UT Cultural Attractions Committee takes a retreat to decide upon the cultural programming that will be available to UT students and faculty during the following year.
While the committee takes many factors into account, most important to the decision is diversity. They want the people at UT and in the Knoxville community to be exposed to new ideas, new cultures and new people.
“I think the community benefits by attending our performances,” committee chairperson Meredith Whitfield said. “We especially want our students to broaden their horizons culturally.”
With this idea in mind, the committee selected “Hello, Pops! A Tribute to Louis Armstrong featuring Wycliffe Gordon and the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra” to be shown on Sept. 27 at the Bijou Theatre. Due to overwhelming response, the show is now sold out.
“I feel like the past few years we have focused on bluegrass music, so we switched to jazz because it hasn’t been done in a while,” Whitfield said. “The response has been outstanding, it’s going to be a great turnout.”
The show features Wycliffe Gordon, a Georgia native and world-renowned jazz musician and composer who specializes in trombone. He has performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton, two legends who have made large contributions to jazz music. The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra (KJO) contacted him after he performed at an international trombone festival in Nashville. Gordon is excited to be playing for this event.
“I’m looking forward to putting it all together,” Gordon said. “I think it will be interesting to be a part of the orchestra as well as a leader.”
Gordon is excited for another reason, too — he gets to perform in honor of one of his heroes and musical inspirations: Louis Armstrong.
“(Armstrong’s) music was the first jazz recording I ever had,” Gordon said. “I was 12 years old and couldn’t even define jazz yet, just that it was uplifting and I wanted to play it.”
For him, this is a chance to pay tribute to one of his greatest heroes.
“Armstrong was and is phenomenal,” Gordon said. “Both as a musician and a person, he meant so much to so many people.”
Although it’s a tribute concert, both Gordon and the KJO hope to put a unique spin on Armstrong’s style.
“Because of the KJO influence and Gordon’s talent, I think it will serve as a tribute while still being a more original adaptation than most people have seen before,” Whitfield said.
The UT Cultural Attractions Committee hopes to attract a variety of UT students and staff through their cultural series that continues this year. Through the coming months, they will be switching their focus to include modern dance troupes and ballets. The Les Ballet Trockadero will be coming to the Clarence Brown Theatre on Jan. 26, followed by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet performing Moulin Rouge on March 29. Both of these are just $5 for students with a student ID.