Recently while I was at WEAA radio station, I got a chance to meet two young, enthusiastic jazz musicians named Ebban and Ephraim Dorsey. Over the years I’ve had an opportunity to hear them, and they sound great. And even though they were both in junior high school, their love and passion for jazz are just as strong as any adult’s.
Like many young jazz musicians, they spend their extra hours taking lessons to perfect their craft. In last month’s edition of Jazz Times, it listed over 150 summer band camps geared towards middle and junior high school students, but none are being held here in the city of Richmond where I live.
In Book Three of the JassOdyssey series, Park travels to Denver, Colorado and participates in a contest called “The Best Territory Band in the Land.” Though things don’t turn out well for Park and the band he played in, I think that it’s something we should encourage among our middle school, high school and even college jazz musicians.
Here is what I propose. Every year here in the City of Richmond, there is a big jazz festival sponsored by Altria. It takes place in Maymont Park. Some of the best jazz talent in the land is featured there. Pre-festivity events also take place at the Hippodrome, one of the venues on the Chitlin’ Circuit. It would be cool if the city would sponsor “The Best Middle School, High School, and College Jazz Band In the Land Contest” as part of Richmond’s Jazz Festival. After all, why should the adults have all the fun?
Richmond prides itself as a bastion of history so that the contest can take place in the Hippodrome Theatre here in Jackson Ward. The theater can easily accommodate the crowd, and with the new hotel being built in the area, people would have a place to stay. Richmond’s jazz events usually start on Friday and end on Sunday. The contest can start on Monday and end on Thursday before the big annual event. Students could take part in summer band workshops, and compete in the contest. The winning band would be featured in the Thursday night line up at the Hippodrome. And to sweeten the pot. JassOdyssey would feature the winning bands playing background music for one of its upcoming Audiobooks, and share in the profits of the sale of the audiobook.
It might also be an opportunity for the students in the surrounding neighborhoods to work with local theater companies or HBCUs in a production of a play based on ii-V-I: A JassOdyssey.
Seems like a win-win situation for the city, the bands that compete, Jackson Ward, as well as the jazz community of Richmond. Let’s make this happen.