Arts & Culture

Rick Hirsch Joins Local Jazz Musicians for 10th Big Band Blast

See Rick Hirsch perform "Fantasia on an Ellington Theme" with the Penn State University Centre Dimensions.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 23, 2017) Popular composer, saxophonist and jazz educator Rick Hirsch will help local musicians ring in a decade of jazz performances at the 10th annual Big Band Blast. Hirsch will join the University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble, Bluegrass Area Jazz Ambassadors and Jazz All-Stars of Central Kentucky for this concert 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

In addition to the talents of guest artist Rick Hirsch, this celebration of the 10th anniversary of Big Band Blast concerts will feature several alumni performing with the current teenage musicians in the Jazz All-Stars of Central Kentucky. Many of these alumni are now students in the UK School of Music.

As a composer and arranger, Rick Hirsch has established himself nationally and internationally with his inventive, evocative works for jazz and saxophone ensembles. He began as an apprentice for master jazz composers Toshiko Akiyoshi and Bob Mintzer, serving each as personal music copyist. Hirsch has been awarded multiple fellowships and grants for jazz composition from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He has been commissioned to write music for many top musicians and ensembles, including Eddie Henderson, Yusef Lateef, Chris Vadala, Jackie Allen and the Capitol Quartet. Hirsch's music is published by Alfred MusicUNC Jazz PressBRS Music and his own HirschMusic Publications. His jazz ensemble arrangements have received Editor's Choice designations several years in a row from J.W. Pepper, a sheet music retailer. 

As a saxophonist, Hirsch has performed with dozens of legendary jazz musicians, including Max Roach, Clark Terry, Tito Puente, Louie Bellson and Phil Woods. He has backed up the Four Tops and The Temptations, and has also performed on NPR's "Whaddya Know." Hirsch continues to perform regularly with several local and regional bands and musicians.

A sought-after jazz educator, Hirsch is known for his inspiring, creative and easy-going teaching style with aspiring musicians. He has taught music at Penn State University, Northern Illinois University, Madison West High School and State College Area High School. In addition, Hirsch has appeared as a guest artist/clinician at schools, universities and festivals around the country. He is a contributing author to "Musicianship: Composing in Band and Orchestra" (GIA 2013).

Jazz All-Stars of Central Kentucky (JACK) is an ensemble of 15-20 of the state's best high school jazz musicians selected through applications and recorded auditions by UK Jazz Studies. Each year, these select musicians are given the opportunity to meet with members of UK's music faculty, attend masterclasses, hear UK faculty/student ensembles, and perform with other outstanding musicians from Kentucky and surrounding states.

The Bluegrass Area Jazz Ambassadors (BAJA) are a popular performing ensemble affiliated with the Bluegrass Area Jazz Association, a nonprofit organization committed to the promotion of jazz education and the performance of jazz in the Bluegrass area. The group comprises musicians from the community, both professional and amateur, as well as students from UK Jazz Studies. The group regularly performs in many places including UK's Singletary Center, Ecton Park and other outdoor festivals, as well as with local middle and high school bands.

A very active group on the road, the UK Jazz Ensemble (UKJE), which performs under the direction of Miles Osland, has toured the Midwest and South with performances in Chicago; Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus, Ohio; Louisville; Notre Dame, Indiana; Tennessee; and Georgia. The ensemble has given invitational performances at the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference and Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic. In July 2011, UKJE and the Osland/Dailey Jazztet toured France, Switzerland and the Netherlands, performing at the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals. The ensemble is also busy in the recording studio. Five recordings from UK Jazz Studies have been recommended for Grammy nominations and received four-star reviews from DOWNBEAT magazine.

Tickets for the 10th annual Big Band Blast are $9 for general admission and $4 for students with a valid school ID. Processing fees will be added to transaction upon purchase. Free advance tickets are available for UK students at the Singletary Center ticket office through Friday business hours. Regular priced tickets may be purchased through the Singletary Center ticket office by visiting, calling 859-257-4929, or in person at the venue.

headshot photo of Rick Hirsch with saxophone by Meadowlane Photography
Rick Hirsch. Photo by Meadowlane Photography.

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