Jun 26, 2008 Staff Writer Uncategorized
Some of the best big bands in Central New York aren’t even made up of professional musicians.
But the students who play in groups such as Syracuse Department of Parks & Recreation Stan Collella All-Star Band, the West Genesee High School Jazz Band, the Corcoran High School Jazz Ensemble, and the Manlius Pebble Hill Jazz Combo certainly play like professionals. These kids swing, big-time!
Those bands will be among the 15 scholastic jazz acts performing at the 2008 JGB Syracuse Jazz Fest on Friday and Saturday, June 27-28, at Onondaga Community College.
West Genny vocalist
The West Genesee Jazz Band, directed by Steve Frank, a talented trombonist himself, plays jazz fest at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 28, just before headliner Chaka Khan performs at 9 p.m. on the adjacent Y94 Main Stage.
The 19-piece band will perform tunes such as “Avalon,” “Caravan” and “Blues in the Closet.”
“‘Avalon’ is from Natalie Cole’s book and features our great bassist, Jordan Morton, as well as our excellent vocalist, Lauren Sageer,” Frank said.
Other featured soloists include tenor saxophonists David Pond and Ben Seigal; baritone player Genevieve Brigida; alto player Brandon Valerino; pianist Dylan Price; and drummer Kevin Mixon, Jr.
The OCC Jazz Band
The Onondaga Community College Jazz Band, also under the direction of Steve Frank, will perform at 9 p.m. Friday, June 27.
“In 2008, despite the nation-wide economic downturn, we’ve made it a priority to maintain the festival’s education programs at full-strength,” said Jazz Fest Founder Frank Malfitano. “Our new two-stage format this year will give student musicians the same prime-time audience exposure the festival’s professional headliners enjoy. The National Grid Scholastic Stage will be positioned right next to the Y94FM Main Stage, so it’s a real high-profile venue which will certainly enhance and elevate the students’ performance level.”
Don’t miss MPH Combo
Other scholastic acts making jazz fest appearances on June 27 will be the Henninger High School Jazz Ensemble, the Liverpool High School Jazz Ensemble, and the YCCA Jazz Ensemble. In addition, the Paul V. Moore High School Vocal Jazz Ensemble and the Oswego High School Jazz Ensemble will perform on the festival’s main stage at 3 and 4 p.m., respectively, on the festival’s opening day.
On Saturday June 28, another memorable performance will take place at 4 p.m. when the Manlius Pebble Hill Jazz Combo, under the direction of Joe Colombo, plays the National Grid Stage. The MPH group includes two recent winners of Down Beat magazine’s student music awards, keyboardist Noah Kellman and trumpeter Nick Frenay.
Also on June 28, JGB Jazz Fest presents the C.W. Baker High School’s “Silk & Satin” Vocal Jazz Ensemble, the Christian Brothers Academy Jazz Ensemble, the Marcellus High School Jazz Ensemble, the Solvay High School Vocal Jazz Ensemble and the West Genesee High School Jazz Band on the scholastic stage, while the Skaneateles Middle School Jazz Ensemble and the Corcoran High School Jazz Ensemble play on the main stage at 1 and 2 p.m.
One of the swinging-est youth bands, the YMCA Center for Creative Arts Jazz Ensemble of Rome, N.Y., will perform at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, June 27, on the scholastic stage. The big band’s 2007 CD, Mission Driven, was nominated as best jazz recording for the 2008 Syracuse Area Music Awards.
At the festival, the YCCA outfit will feature its 9-year-old drummer, Scottie Madonia, baritone saxophonist Kenneth Cobble, tenor saxman Tim Grossman, alto saxist Andrew Michik, and lead trumpeter Mark Tardugno. They’ll play Neil Hefti’s “Cute,” featuring tap-dancer Sean Jackson, Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a La Turk” and the Basie Band classic “Jamie,” among others.
The student performances will be adjudicated by Syracuse University jazz educators John Coggiola, Josh Dekaney, Bill DiCosimo and Joe Riposo. Each participating school music program will receive a $500 cash grant from Syracuse Jazz Fest.
For the complete 2008 JGB Syracuse Jazz Fest schedule, visit syracusejazzfest.com.
Music is an active art
The JGB Syracuse Jazz Fest’s education program director is Steve Frank, conductor of both the Onondaga Community College Jazz band and the West Genesee High School Jazz Band.
We asked him how young people can be bitten by the jitterbug, so to speak. Even before they reach high school, most students have been saturated with pop culture influences now dominated by country sloganeers, pop balladeers and hip-hop gangsters. How can we inspire young musicians and young listeners alike to discover the harmonic and rhythmic joy of the great American Songbook, swing and traditional American music forms such as blues, folk and New Orleans-style jazz?
In an e-mail, Frank was extremely frank:
I’m not sure that there is anything that any of us can do to resist the commercialization and commodification of music. Let’s face it, the media and marketing giants are exploiting younger and younger children in an effort to make a buck.
I have two general ideas about this.
Kids will not respond to negative comments and criticism. I do believe, though, that kids respect the taste and opinions of those whom they admire. If we ‘elders’ are passionate about the music that we value the kids will listen to us and to that music. Quality music will always appeal to interested students. We need to expose them to the music that we like, and explain what it is that we like about it. Plant the seed and watch it grow.
And, I don’t think that you can overstate the importance of kids studying music, either as vocalists or instrumentalists. Music is meant to be played. It is an active art, not a passive one. People should be making music, not just listening to it. As fewer and fewer people actively make music, the art form declines. It’s no coincidence that there was a piano in every parlor during the glory days of American music.