Each year, musical guests and students at the University of Miami Frost School of Music come together to captivate audiences of varying musical interests and passions.
As Florida’s premier live music festival, Festival Miami promotes a broad range of genres and musical talents to provide students and guests with innovative and inspiring performances. For many students, the experience of Festival Miami brings perspectives full circle.
For Frost School of Music alumnus Chris Croce, B.M. ’14, this year’s Festival Miami experience is unique compared to his past Festival performances. For the first time since graduating, Croce is returning to UM to showcase his talents with Bruce Hornsby, B.M. ’77, and the Frost School’s Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra as part of the Creative American Music series.
|Bassist Chris Croce, B.M. ’14|
For Croce, the upcoming performance truly brings him back to where his career started. He recalls the moment during his time as a student when he first worked with Hornsby preparing for a Festival Miami concert. “Members of the Frost Studio Jazz Band created their own arrangements of Bruce Hornsby tunes and performed for Bruce,” said Croce. “As a bass player, I tend to sit near the piano and ended up next to Bruce during our performance. I think that was the first time he took notice to my interest in both contemporary and jazz music.”
Interactions such as the one with Croce and Hornsby happen frequently at the Frost School. Their brief meeting sparked a larger conversation and prompted Hornsby to reach out to Croce a few years later when he returned to Miami Beach for a concert with the New World Symphony. This time, Hornsby invited Croce to join him on stage for that symphonic performance, which was praised as “musically arresting” and “entertaining” by South Florida Classical Review. While the two haven’t had a chance to perform together since, Hornsby knew that Croce would be the ideal musician to join him during his Festival Miami performance with the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra.
“During my time playing with the Studio Jazz Band at the Frost School of Music, Chris played great and had this beautiful, joyous spirit as a player and a person. It was great to play with him at the New World Symphony concert and I knew he would be a perfect fit for the Festival Miami show,” said Hornsby.
Hornsby knows all too well the impact that visiting performers, especially alumni, can have on students. He shared, “One of the first concerts I attended as a student was The Dixie Dregs, a band comprised of former UM music students. The performance inspired and amazed me.”
It’s moments and opportunities like this that keep Hornsby, Croce, and others returning to perform and take part in Festival Miami. With an eclectic mix of performers and genres, the Festival appeals to musically diverse interests and cultures, including everything from Cuban Fusion to American Pop.
“At Festival Miami, the performances are unique in the sense that they often cross genres, sounds and styles,” said Croce. “When you attend a performance, it’s not just jazz or songwriting, it always goes much deeper; I think that speaks to the diversity of the Frost School of Music in general.”
While Festival Miami performances will continue to impress audiences regardless of genre or style, it is connections like Croce and Hornsby that communicate the value of merging the past and the present on center stage. “While I was a student, it was opportunities like working with Bruce Hornsby, taking part in song writing competitions and opening for other artists that shaped me into an all-around musician. Each of these occasions are unique to Festival and I know many other students who have had similar interactions and now have similar stories to tell,” said Croce.
“Bruce Hornsby is one of the most moving and innovative songwriter/composers of our time,” said Frost School of Music Dean Shelly Berg. “It is thrilling to me that he is returning to his alma mater to inspire and collaborate with our student artists. The thrill is amplified by Bruce’s selection of Frost alum, Chris Croce to join in as a performer.”
On February, 4, 2017, when Hornsby and Croce take their talents center stage for their Festival performance with the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, they will perpetuate the legacy of Festival Miami; fostering life-long connections that create musical adventures for years to come.
Also appearing at Festival Miami on February 9, will be renowned violinist Mark O’Connor with The O’Connor Band, along with alumnus bassist Geoff Saunders, M.M. ’13, now a D.M.A. candidate at the Frost School. O’Connor was artist-in-residence at Frost when he met Saunders. He then invited Saunders to record and tour with The O’Connor Band. Their Coming Home album debuted at No. 1 in August on the Billboard Bluegrass Albums Chart.
Festival Miami kicks-off on January 19 and runs through February 11, guaranteeing another year of Grammy Award winning and internationally acclaimed musical guest artists, master faculty artists, and award-winning student ensembles. For a full listing of performers, concerts and ticket availability visit: www.festivalmiami.com