March 8, 2024

WCU's Wells School of Music Presents 34th Annual Jazz Festival March 20 – 23Jazz Fest

The Wells School of Music at West Chester University (WCU) will bring world-class entertainment and free live jazz to the surrounding community during the 34th annual Jazz Festival from March 20 – 23, 2024. All performances except for Saturday’s High School Jazz Festival are FREE and open to the public. All performances take place in the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, Swope Music Building and Performing Arts Center, 817 S. High Street, West Chester. Full listings and details for all programming can be found at

“We are very excited to offer world-class jazz programming for our campus and surrounding communities to enjoy,” says Director of Jazz Studies Jonathan Ragonese. “This year’s jazz festival features some of the finest musicians in the business including jazz legend Bob Mintzer,  the Ron Thomas Trio, Phil Haynes and Herb Robertson, the student ensemble Kitchen Sink, and the WCU Faculty Jazz group.”

Mintzer headlines and performs alongside West Chester University’s beloved Criterions Jazz Ensemble in an all-Mintzer concert under the direction of Ragonese.

On Saturday, many of the finest high school jazz ensembles from around the region will perform a short set and work with WCU faculty judges. This is the only ticketed event. Tickets available at

Schedule of Events:

Wednesday, March 20

12 p.m. – Ritual Auras: Phil Haynes/Herb Robertson - FREE, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre

Opening the festival is the catalyzing duo with drummer Phil Haynes and trumpeter Herb Robertson. Haynes has performed and recorded with a Who’s Who of international creative artists including Anthony Braxton, David Liebman, Drew Gress, Frank Lacy, and Dave Douglas. Robertson boasts an expansive recording catalog, performing regularly with Tim Berne, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Joe Lovano, John Zorn, and Gerry Hemingway.


Wednesday, March 20

Jazz Fest8 p.m. – WCU Faculty Jazz Group - FREE, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre

Featuring Jonathan Ragonese (Saxophone), John Swana (Trumpet/EVI), Jeremy Jordan (Piano), Devin Arne (Guitar), David Cullen (Guitar), Marc Jacoby (Vibraphone), Dan Cherry (Trombone), Peter Paulsen (Bass), Christopher Hanning (Drums).


Thursday, March 21

12 p.m. – Student Showcase: Kitchen Sink - FREE, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre

WCU’s first student ensemble will perform at the festival. Chosen through a rigorous audition process, the ensemble is a student-led, student-conceived, and an all student-performing ensemble.

Kitchen Sink is a band of like-minded composers, improvisers, and musicians dedicated to the creation and performance of new works by emerging composers. Originally formed by composer Nathan Hansen to premier a series of new works, Kitchen Sink has since served as a creative space for several other composers at West Chester University to showcase their music to the community. Containing a wide variety of instrument families and versatile musicians, Kitchen Sink seeks to engage with soloistic and collective improvisational experiences.


Thursday, March 21

8 p.m. – Ron Thomas Trio – FREE, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre

Featuring Steve Meashey and Chris Lōser

This program is the culmination of the series And now: a word from our friends. Lecturer Ron Thomas invites two close friends for an evening of piano trio. Thomas is recognized for the scope and breadth of his influences and interests. He entered the Manhattan School of Music in 1959 where he studied composition with Vittorio Gianinni, Nicolas Flagello, and Ludmila Ulehla. During that time, he also studied privately with M. William Karlins and later with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Heavily influenced by the music of Miles Davis and Bill Evans, Ron continued his studies in Composition with Stefan Wolpe and Raoul Pleskow at C.W.Post College, Long Island University where he received his Master's Degree. The years since have been an extended elaboration upon these foundational elements through composing, jazz performance, recording, teaching, and writing about music.


Friday, March 22

7:30 p.m. – Bob Mintzer and the Criterions Jazz Ensemble – FREE!, Madeleine Wing Adler TheatreJazz Fest

A festival headliner concert that is not to be missed, the Criterions play an entire evening of Bob Mintzer’s music alongside the composer/arranger/saxophonist himself. Mintzer currently holds the Barbara and Buzz McCoy endowed chair at the USC Thornton School of Music and is a 30-year member as saxophonist with the Yellowjackets. He is also the chief conductor of the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany. Mintzer has written over 500 big band arrangements, several jazz study books, and orchestral and chamber works. He has played on over 1000 recordings and has performed with Tito Puente, Buddy Rich, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis Big Band, Eddie Palmieri, Jaco Pastorius, Mike Manieri, Randy Brecker, and the New York Philharmonic.


Saturday, March 23

10 a.m. – High School Jazz Ensemble Showcase – TICKETED EVENT, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre

More than a dozen of the finest jazz ensembles from high schools around the region will perform in half-hour sets. Student ensembles will receive feedback from WCU clinicians. Tickets are $12/$7 students at   




Back to top of page.