Wynton Marsalis Dedicates Time to Jazz Education
Wynton Marsalis leads the Eau Claire Memorial High School Jazz Band in music by Duke Ellington as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival, May 10, 2009. Photo by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center.
By Bridget Wilson
Every year, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis dedicates countless hours to keeping the spirit of jazz alive through Jazz at Lincoln Center's education initiatives. At the forefront of the organization's mission is educating younger generations about jazz, America’s unique art form, which is imperative not only to continuing the music's legacy but also understanding the values it represents.
As Marsalis has noted, "Jazz tells us more about who we are as Americans, where we've been and where we're going, more than any other indigenous art form. It is a music of communication. Listening is an important skill to learn in this age of global communication. The telephone, radio, and computer have given us the tools to speak to one another. Now, the question is what will we say and how well will we listen? Jazz music teaches us the respect, patience, and attentiveness that is required to participate in today's worldwide conversation. It enables us to understand and enjoy the individuality of every person and encourages us to listen to one another with empathy."
To kick off the summer, Marsalis mentored more than 400 students from 15 high school jazz bands from across the United States as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program. The program, created during the 1995–96 school year, aims to make the music of Duke Ellington and other seminal big band composers and arrangers accessible to as many high school musicians as possible and to support the development of school music programs. Jazz at Lincoln Center now also hosts the annual Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival at its home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, every May for students to come together to jam, compete, and learn from the leading jazz educators, including Marsalis. During the 2009 Competition & Festival weekend, Marsalis gave advice to the students during "One on One" and Q & A sessions, and he continued to mentor, adjudicate, and perform with the students throughout the weekend. Members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and other jazz educators also held workshops and participated in jam sessions to further the educational experience.
Annually, more than 100 Jazz at Lincoln Center staff and members of the jazz community come together to volunteer their time to help with Essentially Ellington. These volunteers welcome students and band directors upon their arrival at Frederick P. Rose Hall with a "cheer tunnel," or as one director called it, "the gauntlet of love." Throughout the three-day festival, volunteers help coordinate activities, sell merchandise, and mentor students, among other tasks. A handful of volunteers dedicate themselves to serving as host to one of the 15 finalist bands, guiding and mentoring the students throughout the entire Essentially Ellington experience.
The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program is just one of the highlights of Jazz at Lincoln Center's broad offering of education programs and resources. To find out more, please visit www.jalc.org.
Ensuring younger generations understand the importance of jazz and all of the arts to America is only one of benefits to volunteering. As Marsalis said himself, "a dedication to the arts is a gift to our country."
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Sherman Irby leads rehearsal as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival, May 8, 2009. Photo credit: Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Marcus Printup instructs student trumpeters as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival, May 4, 2007. Photo credit: Ayano Hisa for Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Volunteers cheer on students and directors in "cheer tunnel" upon arrival at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center for the Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival, May 8, 2009. Photo credit: Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center.
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