The Rootabaga Jazz Festival started in Galesburg thirty years ago and is still alive and swinging today. Rootabaga was named after a collection of intentionally misspelled children’s stories written by Carl Sandburg, himself a native of Galesburg.
I interviewed the sponsor of the event, music instructor Nikki Malley, who gave me the history of the event. She said that the festival began when the Rootabaga Jammers, a local band founded by Mona Tourlentes, started the festival, taking the name from the Sandburg’s book. The Rootabaga Festival started out as a one-day event and has now turned into a four-day festival, premiering with the “Knox Faculty and Friends Combo” on Thursday with the performance of the Matt Wilson Quartet.
Thursday at McGillacuddy’s features the Faculty and Friends Combo, which consists of various professors. The Alumni Big Band will play on Friday as an opening to the Orquesta Alto Maiz, an authentic Latin style band. The Alumni Big Band is made up of alumni from various instrumental backgrounds who come together and practice with Professor Scott Garlock. Thursday and Friday at McGillacuddy’s is intended to be a fun, informal, more party-oriented atmosphere, Malley said.
Then on Saturday the Knox College Jazz Ensemble and the Matt Wilson quartet will be playing at the Orpheum. When asked about the style of Matt Wilson quartet, Malley described the music as “jazz for people who think they don’t like jazz.” She also described him as modern jazz with comedy, but he also combines various styles of music such as 80’s rock, metal and rhythm and blues. Matt Wilson is a native of Knoxville himself and is eager to share his talent and his knowledge about jazz with the community.
Students are encouraged to come join all the festivities during these three days. Admission to all events is free.