The award winning Knox Jazz Ensemble is extremely active. On campus, the group performs a fall and spring concert, as well as performing for other college functions. In Galesburg, the group plays out at least once a term, often hosting other area big bands for evenings at Fat Fish Pub, a local blues pub well known for their live music events. These include bands such as the Illinois Central College Big Band and Bradley University's big band. The group competes successfully every winter in several collegiate jazz festivals, usually competing with schools many times the size of Knox. In addition, the Knox Jazz Ensemble goes on European tours every four years.
Most recently, the Knox Jazz Ensemble has made appearances at:
• Western Illinois University
• University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire
• Notre Dame
• University of Kentucky
• University of Kansas
• University of North Texas
The group also performed at the Illinois Music Educators Association's (IMEA) annual conference and at meetings of the Central Illinois Jazz Society. In addition, the band hosts the annual three-day Rootabaga Jazz Festival (named after Galesburg native Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories), with performances at both McGillacuddy's and Galesburg's restored Orpheum Theater.
Past guest artists featured with the band include:
• Benny Green
• Kurt Elling
• Rob McConnell
• Joey DeFrancesco
• Knoxville and Illinois native Matt Wilson
• Trumpeter Jim Rotondi
• Saxophonist Eric Alexander
• Ashanti, a Latin jazz group
The Knox Jazz Ensemble has been singled out by many of these guest artists for its obvious enjoyment of the music and the close-knit group formed on campus. Usually about half of the band lives in the Jazz House -- a permanent theme house on campus.
The band has two compact discs, No Excuses and Assorted Pre-Concert Rituals, and is featured on the combined big band and small groups CD: Mr. B-Natural. The Knox Jazz Ensemble meets three times a week and its membership is audition based. Between half and two-thirds of the group's members at any given time are music majors, but it is not a necessary requirement to audition. Auditions are held at the beginning of each school year.