For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Unified Jazz Ensemble is returning to Decorah to perform.
The band, which consists of four of the five original members, will perform Monday, June 9, at 7 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life during Luther’s Dorian Middle School Music Camp; Wednesday, June 11, at 7 pm. at the Hotel Winneshiek; Thursday, June 12 at 7 p.m. in the Carrie Lee Auditorium and Friday, June 13, at the Courtyard and Cellar.
The performance at Carrie Lee is hosted by the Oneota Film Festival and will follow the first public screening of “The 4th R: The Art of Education,” a feature-length documentary film about the importance of art in education, produce in Decorah by local filmmaker Kyrl Henderson. Admission is $10.
The film features the UJE, but is primarily an arts advocacy film in support of music and the arts in public school. For more information, visit

The five-member UJE lived and worked in Decorah during the school years of ’92-93 and ’93-’94.
The young jazz quintet had recently graduated from North Texas University. Their two-year residency in Decorah was part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Chamber Music Rural Residency Initiative.”
According to Jim Fritz, who served as Decorah High School band director during the residency, Decorah was one of three communities involved in the initiative. The others were Jesup, which hosted the Ying String Quartet, and Fayette, which hosted the Boccherini Ensemble.
“Decorah’s residency was a unique three-way partnership between the city of Decorah, the Decorah Community School District ,” said Fritz.
During their residency, the UJE taught jazz theory and directed the jazz bands at Luther College.
They worked each week with members of the Decorah High School and Middle School jazz bands.
They played a variety of venues throughout the community, including a standing engagement each Tuesday evening at Orsey’s, a local bar.
“It is my belief this was a pivotal time in the resurgence of the arts community in Decorah. The UJE provided a highly visible force in the community. They really helped synergize the artists and live music in Decorah. They brought together many different people that had similar interests. They helped launch the jazz program at Luther as well as supplement jazz education in the public schools. More importantly, they really propelled the arts to the forefront in our community,” said Fritz.