A couple of weekends ago I attended the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival held in Rockville, Maryland. I even posted a picture of myself at the event on my blog.
And as I have said a number of times, it was a real pleasure because the organizers not only involved top-shelf adult jazz musicians, they even got the youth involved. There were so many middle school and high school jazz bands there, that I can’t mention them all. But I can say that they came not only from the state of Maryland, but also Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Jersey. During their performances, not only did they look engaged and excited, they also sounded great. There also were workshops at the festival so that young persons could hone their musical skills.
I’m glad to see that young folks are taking jazz seriously, just as I’m delighted to see that older musicians are willing to mentor them. We all have to start somewhere, so why not participate in a school or community jazz band?
I remember while growing up, playing a musical instrument in school was common. We even had adult musicians in the community who were willing to give up some of their free time to teach. But now with budget cuts and down-sizings, many school curriculums are eliminating music programs. But for the most part, we can still rely on community musicians who are willing to fill the void. If you look in the Baltimore/Washington region, you can identify at least two initiatives to teach jazz to young folks outside of the school system.
The first is the Jazz Academy Orchestra (JAO), which is under the direction of Paul Carr. It’s a large ensemble where students learn and perform the big band charts of Duke Ellington, Glen Miller and other writers of the big band era and beyond. It is a great evening program for young musicians grades 7th thorough 12th. The Orchestra performs at various events in the D.C. Metropolitan area. And in the Baltimore area there is the Eubie Blake Cultural Center, which focuses on performing arts such as dance and theater, visual arts such as painting, drawing, sculpture and photography, as well as band, voice, and instrument. They have jazz programs geared towards our youth, and also highlight the area’s most talented adult artists involved in a variety of musical activities in jazz, gospel, neo soul, classical and more. In ii-V-I: A JassOdyssey, Roland and Miles took a tour of the establishment and were delighted.
Let’s end today’s blog with a special tribute to our youth, ‘Children Are Forever” by Stanley Clarke and make it our Jazz Album Of The Day.”