The Next Generation Jazz Festival Presented by Monterey Jazz Festival may just be the best kept secret in live entertainment. March 28-30, 2014 will include three days of live music at the Monterey Conference Center, all of which is FREE and open to the public. Presented by the world-renowned Monterey Jazz Festival, the Next Generation Jazz Festival includes an opening night concert Friday at 8pm and then competitions all day Saturday and Sunday.

Next Generation Jazz Festival

So here's the caveat - it is a student music festival and competition. Okay, before you stop reading, get rid of the notion that this is a high school talent show. Far from your run-of-the-mill school performance, the Next Generation Jazz Festival features the nation's best middle school, high school and college jazz ensembles competing for the top prize of a place on the stages at the 57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival. To even compete at this festival, these ensembles are judged by a panel of faculty at Berklee College of Music. Only the best of the best make it to Monterey. Once you are at the festival, if you close your eyes you can easily imagine you are listening to a world-class big band. Open your eyes and see prepubescent kids whose instruments often times are larger than they are. What you actually get, when you attend the Next Generation Jazz Festival, is a look at the future of jazz. Guaranteed, some of these students will become the future generation of jazz greats.

So, how does this weekend work?

Friday: Salute to Jazz Education and Judges Concert

Friday night features the Salute to Jazz Education and Judges Concert. Each student category (combos, big bands, vocal groups) is judged by a panel of working professional judges who can give the students direct feedback on their skills. It is these judges who will perform Friday night and will feature Artist-In-Residence Eric Harland, Shelly Berg, Ray Drummond, Russell Malone, Matt Wilson, Bob Sheppard, Mary Fettig, Luis Bonilla, Madeline Eastman, and others. Due to the incredible popularity of this free concert it is typically standing-room-only so come and come early! And if you want to guarantee a seat $50 Gold Circle Tickets are available for the Salute to Jazz Education and Judges Concert and Reception. Proceeds benefit Monterey Jazz Festival's education programs. Gold Circle ticket buyers will receive a reserved seat as well as an invitation to the exclusive post-concert reception with performers and Next Generation Jazz Festival judges.

Next Generation Jazz Festival

Saturday: The High School Competition

The High School Competition begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 30, in the Monterey Conference Center. Throughout the day, the high school groups will perform, with several educational clinics and performances featuring Latimbop, from Berklee College of Music; and Monterey Jazz Festival Artist-In-Residence Eric Harland.

The top High School Vocal, Combo, and Big Band Division winners will be announced at 6:15 p.m. Saturday evening from the Serra Ballroom stage. At 8:30 p.m., the top finalists will perform a Showcase Concert-a preview of the groups performing at the 57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival. The final rankings will be announced at the end of the evening.

Sunday: Conglomerates, Open Combos and College Ensembles

The Next Generation Jazz Festival continues through Sunday, March 30, with Middle School, College, Conglomerate Big Band, High School and College Open Combos, and College Vocal Ensemble Divisions performing in the Serra Ballroom and Steinbeck Forum. The top college big band, college vocal ensemble, high school and college open combo, and conglomerate big band (to be announced during the day) will also earn a performance slot at the 57th Monterey Jazz Festival.

Merchandise from past Monterey Jazz Festivals will be on sale at the Next Generation Jazz Festival. You can also find a jazz education expo in the Conference Center lobby. The Next Generation Jazz Festival will also be streamed online at www.montereyjazzfestival.org.

Sutter Middle School