Now in its 43rd year, the annual John Rhodes Jazz Symposium will be held this Friday, Feb. 22 at Wilton High School in The Little Theater. This event, an assembly of high school jazz bands from across Fairfield County, is known and loved for its display of enormous musical talent and rush of crowd-thrilling performances. The symposium is open to the public and free of charge. All are welcome.

The first of the two sessions will start at 3:30 p.m. and run until 6 p.m.. The second session will begin at 6:30 p.m. and run until 9 p.m.. Following the student performances, Fairfield County’s own Berkshire Jazz Orchestra will take the stage for a special guest performance that will include several Stan Kenton numbers.

Wilton High School band director Nick Loafman is looking forward to another year of inspiring jazz performances. “There is always so much talent on display at our annual jazz symposium. It is so fun and rewarding to hear so many students from different schools playing this great music,” he says.

Participating in the symposium this year will be 10 bands from a number of Fairfield County high schools, including Westhill, King School, Bethel, Norwalk, Brien McMahon, Newtown, and Weston. Wilton High School will feature two of its jazz bands at the event—Jazz I and Jazz II.

The annual symposium is a cherished tradition for local jazz students. It offers them the opportunity to perform on stage as well as to receive critical feedback from an academic panel. “It is always excellent to have student musicians perform for each other in an educationally focused, non-competitive setting,” Loafman says. “The students always learn a great deal by performing and listening to each other.”

In total, approximately 200 passionate young jazz musicians are expected to assemble for this event to share their talents and bring great entertainment to Wilton. Musical selections will range in style from traditional big band swing to Latin to ballads to contemporary jazz.

Also looking forward to this event is Troy Williams, Wilton High School’s newest band director. This will be his first year at the symposium. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about this event,” he says. “I’m excited to hear the other jazz bands coming from near and far.”

Loafman and Williams are especially pleased to welcome back to Wilton the Berkshire Jazz Orchestra. This regional jazz group, organized in 1987, comprises active performers and educators from all over Fairfield County.

“We feel so honored to have these great musicians perform here in Wilton for the students and the community,” Loafman says. “If you love jazz, then this will be a real treat.”