JazzFest History

Nolen Ellison

Awarded: 2016
Born: Kansas City, Kansas

"If it wasn’t for Dr. Nolen Ellison in the seminal years, there may not be a Tri-C JazzFest today. Because of his belief in jazz as an important American art form, he provided college support so that Thom Horning could create and sustain the program in the early years. "

- Dr. Alex Johnson, President, Tri-C


Dr. Nolen M. Ellison arrived at Tri-C in 1974 to become the College’s second president. His vision and indomitable will modernized and transformed the College as it ended its first decade of operation. His demonstrated work ethic and personal commitment to education produced remarkable achievements and advancements for the College, including the formation of the Unified Technologies Center, college-wide integration of computers and the establishment of community partnerships to benefit Tri-C students. Dr. Ellison is also credited with creating the Tri-C JazzFest. Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland kicked off its inaugural concert in 1980 under Dr. Ellison’s leadership, bringing top talents to the College and fulfilling its mission to foster the history and to nurture the future of jazz, to provide educational opportunities for students and to bring world-class jazz to Cleveland. Today, the JazzFest remains true to its original mission.

Dr. Nolen Ellison on Tri-C JazzFest Today
Dr. Nolen Ellison on Jazz Roots from Kansas City