The Savannah Music Festival attracts a plethora of world-class musicians each year, but some of the most memorable moments are at performances related to the SMF’s impressive educational initiatives, Swing Central Jazz and the Acoustic Music Seminar.

Swing Central Jazz, now in its 12th year, brings 12 high school bands from around the country to participate in a three-day workshop led by SMF Associate Artistic Director Marcus Roberts. This year’s team of clinicians includes influential musicians and educators like Jason Marsalis, Jim Ketch, Rodney Whitaker and Ron Westray.


All 12 of this year’s bands will participate in Jazz on the River, a free show at 4 p.m. April 5 at Rousakis Plaza on River Street. If you want to experience the talent and energy of the next generation of jazz musicians, you should plan on going.

The top three jazz bands selected for the 2018 SMF will also perform in a special show, Swing Central Jazz Finale: Stomping the Blues, at the Lucas Theatre. The winning band will receive the Jean Elizabeth Faircloth Award.

Jean, who passed away in 2017, and her husband Bob Faircloth have been among the festival’s most dedicated and enthusiastic supporters.

After the student performances at the beginning of “Stomping the Blues,” a stellar group of musicians will play works by famed composers like W.C. Handy, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The program will emphasize the ways in which the blues has been a foundation of jazz.

The lineup of performers will be led by Marcus Roberts and includes Wycliffe Gordon, Rodney Whitaker, Terell Stafford and Jason Marsalis.

The Swing Central Jazz Finale: Stomping the Blues will take place at 6:30 p.m. April 6 at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts. Ticket prices range from $25 to $65.

I’ll be previewing the 2018 Acoustic Music Seminar in an upcoming column.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged ( and hissing lawns ( Email