2019 Wichita State Jazz Invitational

Friday, March 22 

 Featuring guest artist Dennis Mackrel


 Registration Information

Early registration through February 22, 2019.  Registration closes March 8, 2019. Please email complete stage diagrams to William Flynn.


The WSU Jazz Invitational is a big part of the Wichita Jazz Festival, one of the longest continuously-running, education-focused jazz festivals in the nation. Every spring, big bands and combos from Kansas and the surrounding states visit the WSU campus and perform for a panel of judges, and then have the opportunity to participate in clinics with both judges and guest artists for the festivals. The WJF draws some of the biggest names in jazz; guests over the last few years have included Pat Metheny, Miguel Zenon, Matt Wilson, Eric Alexander, Ben Allison, Tierney Sutton, Allison Miller, and many others.  

 Meet our Guest Artist 

Dennis Mackrel

Dennis MackrelDennis was born, April 3, 1962. A child prodigy, he began playing the drums when he was two; and became a professional musician at the age of ten when he performed in the Anchorage Community Theatre's production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Developing his craft in various playing situations, Dennis received numerous awards such as "Who's Who in Music", 1979; a National Endowment for the Arts grant for composition in 1983; and in 1992; "Outstanding Alumni" from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While attending UNLV, he was a member of the acclaimed UNLV Jazz Ensemble where his drumming and arranging skills caught the attention of vocalist Joe Williams.

In 1981, at 19 years of age, Dennis moved to New York City and landed a gig as a drummer on Broadway. His Broadway credits include The First and A Chorus Line. In January of 1983, Dennis joined the Count Basie Orchestra on the personal recommendation of Mr. Williams. He would become the youngest member of the orchestra and the last drummer to be hired by Mr. Basie personally. Dennis traveled extensively and worked alongside Mr. Basie until his death in April 1984. He continued with the orchestra under the direction of interim leader Eric Dixon followed by Thad Jones. In 1985 under Mr. Jones's leadership, the Count Basie Orchestra recorded one of Dennis's compositions entitled And That's That. Dennis stayed with the band, when Frank Foster took over as leader, until December of 1987. Dennis's composition Bus Dust was included on the CD Long Live The Chief which was recorded during Mr. Foster's tenure as leader. After leaving the Orchestra, he returned to New York and would soon become the drummer of choice for a number of large ensembles including the American Jazz Orchestra, the Carla Bley Big Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Buck Clayton's Swing Band, and the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band. Dennis's transition from sideman to leader continued with his frequent trips to Europe as a guest conductor, arranger and/or soloist for such outstanding ensembles as the Kluvers Big Band in Aarhus, Denmark, the Danish Radio Big Band in Copenhagen, Denmark and the WDR Big Band in Koln, Germany. In 2010, he returned to the Count Basie Orchestra where he served as its leader and chief conductor until 2013 and on November 7, 2015, he was named chief conductor of the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Holland.

In addition to being a seasoned musician, Dennis is also a highly respected composer/arranger whose commissioned works have been recorded by the United States Military Academy at West Point's Jazz Knights Big Band, The Temple University Jazz Ensemble, The Columbus Jazz Orchestra and, most notably, the McCoy Tyner Big Band whose Grammy winning CDs The Turning Point and Journey included four of Dennis's arrangements. As an educator, he continues to conduct master classes, seminars, and workshops throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, and the USA. From 2002-2003, Dennis served as a guest professor at the Royal Conservatory in Aarhus, Denmark and from 2012-2013, he was the Visiting Artist in Jazz Studies at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He is currently a professor at Queens College in Flushing, New York and a member of the jazz faculty at the Birch Creek Summer Jazz Camp in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. Some of the other notable musicians Dennis has performed with include: Monty Alexander, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Hank Jones, and Sir George Shearing, who said "If I ever have a record date coming up that calls for a drummer and Dennis is not available, I'll postpone the session. He's that good.”

 Meet our Adjudicators

Tommy Poole

Tommy PooleTommy Poole is Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He is an active saxophonist and woodwind doubler in a variety of genres. He has recorded as saxophonist on numerous commercially available CDs ranging in style from classical, to jazz, to pop. He has performed professionally with Rosemary Clooney, Ramsey Lewis, Arturo Sandoval, The Woody Herman Orchestra, Andy Montanez, Glenn Monroig, Diane Schuur, Jack Jones, Joe Williams, Mercer Ellington, Marilyn McCoo, Donna Summer, and Dianne Reeves, among many others.

Poole's arrangements/compositions have been featured on at least eight CDs. His first three CDs as producer featured compositions, arrangements, and performances by Poole and received critical acclaim from All About JazzJazzEd MagazineOutside in Music, and Oklahoma Magazine. Poole's most recently produced CD, Solid Gold (2017) featured three-time GRAMMY winning trombonist Michael Dease with the OSU Jazz Orchestra. The recording was awarded four stars by All About Jazz and has received radio play all over the world from 89.5 FM Tulsa all the way to Czech Radio - Vltava Station.  

Poole has presented recitals, workshops or served as guest artist, guest conductor, all-state clinician and/or adjudicator at Cal State Long Beach, Cal State LA, Eastfield College, Pittsburg State University, Slipper Rock University, Augustana University, Northeastern State University, Los Angeles City College, The University of Texas at San Antonio, The University of Arkansas (Fayetteville), and The University of Illinois (Urbana). He has served in similar fashion for countless regional and national conferences and jazz festivals. His research on metric modulations in jazz has been published in Jazz Inside Magazine. He served as President of Oklahoma Jazz Educators Association (OKJE) from 2015 to 2017. He is a member of Jazz Education Network, North American Saxophone Alliance, College Music Society, National Association for Music Education, and Oklahoma Jazz Educators Association.

He received his B.M. and D.M.A. from The University of Texas at Austin and his M.M. from The University of Miami.


Jeff Harshbargerh

Bassist/vocalist/composer Jeff Harshbarger has collaborated with visual artists (Nick Cave, David Ford, Molly Murphy) and musicians (Bobby Watson, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, David Balakrishnan) to produce work that challenges convention. He curates a twice-monthly concert series that promotes original composition, and hosts "Jazz in the Afternoon" on KKFI. A lecturer in Jazz Studies at KU, Harshbarger is the recipient of fellowships from the Charlotte Street Foundation, The Kennedy Center, and The Steans’ Institute. 





Lee Rucker

RuckerLee Rucker has been teaching at the University of Central Oklahoma since 1981. Mr. Rucker has served since that time as the director of the UCO Jazz Lab, Marching Band, Concert Band, Jazz Ensembles I, II, & III, Music Theatre Pit Orchestras, and many smaller jazz groups. His ensembles have been recognized with numerous awards on the state, regional and national levels for musical excellence. As a performer, Lee has worked with the Woody Herman Orchestra and the Louis Bellson Orchestra as a featured soloist, and he has performed with countless other nationally recognized artists throughout the United States and abroad. 




Richard Tirktirk

Trumpeter and conductor Dr. Richard Tirk has performed on five continents and for as varied audiences from the King and Queen of Norway to the outdoor concert in the park crowd in Woodstock, Illinois, his hometown.  In addition to solo performing, Tirk has been a member of several Midwest orchestras, opera orchestras, and jazz ensembles sharing the stage with artists such as Doc Severinsen, Bob Mintzer, and Joyce DiDonato.  A sought after clinician, Dr. Tirk has given masterclasses across the U.S., Brazil, Haiti, and the British Isles.  Richard has a music education degree from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and degrees in trumpet performance from Western Michigan University and Michigan State University.  He currently teaches trumpet and directs the jazz program at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.  





A montage of footage from the 2014 Wichita Jazz Festival

Learn more about the 2019 Jazz Fest, March 22-31, 2019 at wichitajazzfestival.com