Washington is known nationally for its wealth of middle and high school jazz programs. Hundreds of talented and dedicated teenagers make up more than a dozen outstanding big bands, from Olympia to Bellingham. At the forefront of this rich jazz movement, KPLU 88.5 FM has been dedicated to continuing support of music education through the KPLU School of Jazz Project.
The program, supported by a grant from The Boeing Company, provides professional jazz mentors to a dozen schools, helps develop an audience for jazz through it’s inclusive programming efforts, and produces a series of KPLU School of Jazz CD’s, featuring performances by the schools and their mentors.
Last month, the program received a My Source Education Innovation Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C. as well as additional funding to support the program. And, they released Volume 5 of the School of Jazz CD series, which has raised nearly $50,000 since its launch.
Seattle is considered by many to be the hotbed of the scene, and many of the musicians in the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra are deeply involved as bandleaders, educators, clinicians, and mentors.
Drummer and co-artistic director Clarence Acox, and trombonists Scott Brown and David Bentley direct the programs at Garfield, Roosevelt, and Mercer Island High Schools, respectively. Trombonist David Marriott, trumpeter Thomas Marriott, and saxophonist Mark Taylor are mentors in the School of Jazz program.
Multi-media producers Florangela Davila and Glenn Nelson produced this video featuring Thomas Marriott working with David Bentley and the Mercer Island High School jazz band. Florangela explains:
“We wanted to profile the School of Jazz program and our approach was to highlight one mentor at one school. We were lucky enough to get access to Thomas, David and the student musicians at Mercer Island High. We wanted to highlight the mentoring relationship as well as the professionalism and dedication of the students. We hope the video gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the work — and the “fun — that went into preparing for the SOJ recording session.”
More recently, Ms. Davila produced Artscape | Roosevelt vs. Garfield: Cross-town Jazz Music Rivals , a piece about the respectful competition between the programs directed by Scott Brown and Clarence Acox. In the fifteen year history of the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival, Clarence and Scott are the only directors to lead their programs to four first place wins. And they return as finalists this year. Listen (transcript and audio) to the Artscape program to get a feel for the purpose they share.
Track down KPLU School of Jazz Volume 5 to hear all the participating schools, and their mentors, representing the great state of jazz in the State of Washington. And, if you know about a program, or a jazz education story we should hear, share it here.