The University of Rhode Island’s Big Band will perform again at this year’s Newport Jazz Festival. Performing music by classical jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and contemporary artists like Maria Schneider, 17 URI students and alumni will take the Harbor Stage at the 2018 Newport Jazz Fest on  Saturday, August 4 that 11 a.m.

“Concertgoers should expect a set of high-energy jazz and jazz fusion music from the 1930s to present,” said Joseph Parillo, director of jazz studies in a news release, who will conduct the band.

This is the sixth year the Big Band has joined professional jazz performers from around the world at the Newport Jazz Fest. Not only do students get to perform in front of hundreds of enthusiastic fans, they are also able to network with other musicians, gain confidence in their own abilities and prepare for future auditions.

“All of these students are incredibly talented,” Parillo said. “They put this on their resume, and they get to talk to and learn from professionals. The overall experience they get from performing in front of that kind of audience gives them the confidence to stand in front of all kinds of audiences and play. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Students are thrilled to share the stage with jazz legends and perform for the festival’s energetic audiences. Nick Motroni, who graduated from URI in May and is from West Warwick, has played the Jazz Festival with the Big Band as its drummer since 2016. He said performing at the festival is exceptionally unique, and “one of the greatest highlights of my undergraduate experience.”

“The Newport Jazz festival gives me another reason to drive me to achieve more and think bigger,” Motroni said in the release. “Representing the school through the arts at such a prestigious venue has always given me something to work harder toward every single year. Not everyone can say they’ve performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, but by being a student at URI I can say that I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity three times in a row.

“The best part about participating in the festival is the atmosphere that surrounds everything when you are there,” Motroni added. “The fans of jazz and of the various other genres all come together to celebrate music, which I think is one of the biggest motivators for myself and many others to give their absolute best when representing URI on stage. I’m eager to play for the people who attend the festival this year to give them another inspiring performance with the URI Big Band.”

The 2018 Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Investment Managers takes place August 3 – 5 at Fort Adams State Park and the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino. Artists include Charles Lloyd’s 80th Birthday Celebration with three different bands; Andra Day; George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic; Jon Batiste; R+R=NOW; Alicia Olatuja; Michel Camilo; Grace Kelly; Laurie Anderson & Christian McBride Improvisations with special guest Rubin Kodheli; and many more.

Natixis Investment Managers is the Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival and sponsors programs that help enrich the lives of individuals and preserve the cultural experience for future generations through music. In addition to Natixis Investment Managers, the Newport Jazz Festival also receives generous support from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, New Belgium Brewing, and Eventbrite.

Newport Festivals Foundation fosters the legacy and expands the impact of its Festivals through educational initiatives that celebrate innovation while preserving the deep traditions inherent in Jazz and Folk music. The Foundation’s goal is to offer opportunity, inspire through exposure and facilitate the collection of resources needed for musicians to celebrate and innovate. The focus on creating unique experiences to spark engagement is accomplished through a variety of initiatives, including instrument donations and performances at schools throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. For more information, please visit

For tickets and additional information, go to

Photo: University of Rhode Island Professor of Music Joe Parillo conducts the URI Big Band at last year’s Newport Jazz Festival. URI Photo by Nora Lewis

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

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