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The Army Jazz Ambassadors will perform a free concert at 7 p.m. today at the Bemidji High School Auditorium. Submitted Photo

Jazz Ambassadors: U.S. Army Band to perform today

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One of the finest big bands in the world today, the Jazz Ambassadors of Washington, D.C., will perform a free concert at 7 p.m. tonight at the Bemidji High School Auditorium.

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Free tickets are still available and can be picked up at the Bemidji Pioneer or at Paul Bunyan Broadcasting during the day today.

Three Bemidji High School students have been chosen to join the band for a rendition of "In the Mood." They are Aaron Schnackenberg on tenor sax, Zoey Schlemper on trombone and Derek Hend on trumpet.

The Jazz Ambassadors tour thousands of miles each year to promote patriotism and good will for the U.S. Army through free public concerts.

The Army's official touring big band has appeared in a variety of high-profile contexts, including performances with the Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras. The Jazz Ambassadors earned high praise for their musical skills following a January 2001 concert at Carnegie Hall with the Cincinnati Pops and maestro Erich Kunzel. The Cincinnati Enquirer proclaimed, "The musicianship was superb ... the Jazz Ambassadors are polished and seamless virtuosos." During a joint performance with the National Symphony Orchestra, conductor Marvin Hamlisch declared, "I can't think of better ambassadors for our country."

Several of the world's largest jazz festivals have featured the Jazz Ambassadors, including the North Sea Jazz Festival (Holland), the Nice and Vienne Festivals (France), the New York Jazz Rally (Belgium), the Toronto Jazz Festival (Canada), and the Detroit Montreux, Chicago, Wichita, and Jacksonville jazz festivals. In 1989, the Jazz Ambassadors became the first military band ever to perform on the main stage at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. In addition, the International Association of Jazz Educators, which unites thousands of jazz enthusiasts from around the world, regularly showcases the Jazz Ambassadors at their annual convention.

A highly competitive audition process draws candidates from leading conservatories, universities, and the professional ranks. Many members of the Jazz Ambassadors have extensive civilian performance experience, including recordings, movie and television soundtracks, and performances with major jazz and popular music artists. Alumni have gone on to careers in university teaching, studio recording, and performance.

Maj. Hal Gibson, Commander of the Field Band, formed the Studio Band in 1969 in response to an increased demand for jazz orchestra performances. The Studio Band then became the army's premier touring jazz ensemble, and was renamed the Jazz Ambassadors in 1979.

Throughout its history, the Jazz Ambassadors has traveled to all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Two important overseas tours in 1989 helped to commemorate the ensemble's 20th year of touring. A month-long trip to India included performances in New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay. The popularity of American music and jazz led to warm and enthusiastic audiences everywhere. At one concert, the audience demanded four encores and chanted, "Yankee, don't go home!" Following this success, the band performed in four prestigious European venues: the Nice, Vienne, North Sea, and Montreux Jazz Festivals.

At the invitation of the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society, the Jazz Ambassadors conducted a well-received 10-day tour of Japan in 1993, complete with authentic World War II uniforms.

Concerts by the Jazz Ambassadors are designed to entertain all types of audiences. Many of the ensemble's members arrange and compose music highlighting the group's creative talent and gifted soloists. Their diverse repertoire includes big band swing, Latin music, contemporary jazz, bebop, standards, popular tunes, Dixieland, and patriotic selections. Wherever they travel, the Jazz Ambassadors proudly carry the message of patriotism and goodwill to audiences worldwide.

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