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CWU and Jazz in the Valley Connection More than “Chord-ial”

Central Washington University and Ellensburg’s premier Jazz in the Valley (JIV) festival have always had a harmonious relationship. This year, the two institutions are especially in tune. For starters, the poster for the 16th annual festival was designed by Jordan Watts, a CWU graphic arts student.

This year, ensembles from CWU’s Jazz Camp, billed as the Next Generation, will perform on the JIV main stage Saturday morning, July 27. The concert is free and open to the public. JIV is also sponsoring attendance of student campers at the Friday evening concerts. The Jazz Camp, which runs through Saturday, features 80 high school musicians from throughout the state. Directed by Chris Bruya, renowned CWU director of jazz studies, the camp focuses on improvisation, small group playing, master classes on instruments, big bands, jazz theory and arranging, and performances and demonstrations by the faculty.

“This is a great opportunity for our students,” said Bruya. “They will get to see and hear professional jazz musicians, as well as apply all that they’ve learned during the week at a live performance. There is no better way to experience music!”

As part of its mission, JIV has always supported of jazz education. In 2010, the JIV Board established the Jazz in the Valley Young Musician Scholarship, a $1,000 award for students from Washington who will pursue a music major, with an emphasis in jazz studies, at CWU. Since 2006, JIV’s educational outreach program has also worked with CWU’s Jazz Studies to sponsor a variety of music clinics for high school and college students with professional jazz musicians. This includes clinics at CWU, Ellensburg High School, and recently, Cle Elum-Roslyn High School; master classes at CWU; performances at Ellensburg High School; and free concerts in the CWU Music Department Recital Hall.

JIV also functions as sort of a homecoming to many CWU alumni. Norm Wallen, who graduated from CWU with degrees in music education and music performance in 1976, and a master’s degree in music theory and composition in 1978, will be performing at JIV with his new band, Wind Power. It is a 15-piece dance band with two vocalists, four saxophones, six brass, and a rhythm section. The band will perform at the Moose Lodge on Friday, July 26, from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

“CWU has a tradition of quality jazz dating to the 1940s. Of the 15 musicians in Wind Power, 13 are fellow CWU music graduates,” said Wallen. “All are professional musicians, and most are local music teachers who lead their students through professional example. Jazz in the Valley supported their CWU education and continues to support the education of their public school students a generation later!”

The grand finale of the festival is John Moawad's All Star Big Band, directed by Bruya. CWU jazz alums compete to perform in this truly stellar ensemble. The band is dedicated to the memory of John "Coach" Moawad who helped inspire the jazz festival through the many talented musicians that graduated from his jazz program at CWU and who, for JIV’s last 12 years, have reunited in the All Star Festival Big Band that closes the festival on Sunday.

CWU helps out off-stage, as well.

“We’re really pleased to have Chris Bruya and Vijay Singh [CWU vocal jazz professor], along with Norm Wallen on our board,” said Larry Sharpe, president of the Jazz in the Valley board of directors. Other board members from CWU include Dan Beck, Dale and Stephanie Hubbard, and Linda Schactler.

“The music department has also helped by graciously lending us equipment when we’ve needed it,” he said. “We have a really good relationship with CWU.”

Jazz in the Valley will be held July 26 through July 28 at various downtown Ellensburg venues. For more information, or for tickets, go to

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,

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