Category Archives: Education

Jazz4Kids returns to Benaroya Hall on 03/03/12

Jazz4Kids band and audience

Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra presents another one-hour matinee for kids and families, the ever popular Jazz4Kids Concert

  • Saturday March 3rd at 4:00 PM
  • Benaroya Hall’s Nordstrom Recital Center

Jazz4Kids trombone playerThese highly popular events feature musical selections from our evening concert, instrument demonstrations, questions from kids in the audience, and a hands-on “instrument petting zoo” in the lobby, courtesy of Kennelly Keys Music, where kids can come and try out a band instrument!

Jazz4Kids concerts are presented at a nominal ticket charge of $1 for all children and youth, plus any parent, teacher, family member, or youth group leader accompanying them, and are presented with special support from the Glaser Foundation.

As one happy parent said,  “The concert was great – thanks to your organization and sponsors, our 20 month old loved it!! She was dancing and clapping the entire time, and her attention was captivated for the entire concert…. which is saying a lot for 20 months! Best – Julie G.” 

Advanced tickets are highly recommended, and are available at Brown Paper Tickets. Get yours today, we enjoy capacity audiences every time!


Marcus Pimpleton – KCTS 9 Golden Apple Award Winner

Marcus Pimpleton - Jazz ScholarsCongratulations Marcus!

Marcus Pimpleton is the music director of the Denny International Middle School, and the band director for Chief Stealth International High School, Seattle’s All-City Band, and Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra’s Jazz Scholars.

On Friday evening, at the Intiman Theatre ceremony, he became a recipient of the KCTS 9 Golden Apple Award for Educational Excellence, which have honored successful teaching models and programs among Washington state educators since 1992.

“In multiple positions—with middle school, high school and university students and the All-City Band—he builds bridges and creates innovative opportunities for his students to learn about life, leadership, volunteering and community through music and performance. In the classroom, Pimpleton saw many middle school students put down their instruments as they made the transition to high school. Aware of the link between music study and academic achievement, he pushed for a chance to teach both the middle- and high-school bands. In two years, the high-school band has doubled in size. He has also run music camps during school breaks and has seen retention rates increase. “The most powerful learning that takes place in my classes is not musical,” he says, “but the personal development that comes from students taking ownership.” KCTS 9

Marcus Pimpleton - Jazz ScholarsMarcus selects, directs and mentors the student musicians  for Jazz Scholars, SRJO’s school-partnered pilot program, providing jazz technique and instrumental music lessons for low-income and minority band students at Denny International Middle Scholl in southwest Seattle. “Marcus works very hard, has been crucial in developing the dynamic music program at Denny/Sealth, and is so deserving of this honor,” said Susan Jenkins, SRJO Board President and co-ordinator of the Jazz Scholars program.

Through its Jazz Scholars program, SRJO provides six professional instructors for weekly individual or group lessons in the six areas of band instrumentation, as well as assisting Marcus with sectional rehearsals for the entire band. We are extremely proud of his accomplishments, and pleased by his recognition.

Jazz4Kids added to season opener

SRJO Jazz4Kids audience The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra opens its 2011-12 concert season with another of its highly popular Jazz4Kids concerts on Saturday, October 29th (4:30 PM) in the Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya. This concert is presented with special support from Seattle’s Child and PONCHO.

SRJO Jazz4Kids tromboneThis Jazz4Kids event includes instrument demonstrations, a “petting zoo” hands-on instrument display in the lobby (courtesy of Kennelly Keys Music), and questions from kids in the audience, and features pieces selected from main stage “An Evening with Ol’ Blue Eyes” concert that the SRJO is presenting on Saturday night.


Jazz4Kids concerts are presented at a nominal ticket charge ($1.00 per seat; Ticket price = $.01, plus a service charge of $.99 at for each child or youth, plus any parent, teacher, family member, or youth group leader accompanying them. You can print your tickets for the Jazz4Kids concert at home, but get them quick – past Jazz4Kids concerts have sold out!

Blocks of free tickets are also available to schools and community youth groups.

Seattle Child logo  Poncho logo

Click HERE to visit the SRJO Jazz4Kids page.

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Young Turks: Jazz is in good hands.

SRJO with Xavier Del Castillo, Ian Frost, Jack Walters

Xavier Del Castillo, Jack Walters, Ian Frost with SRJO

One of SRJO’s most popular programming features each year is sharing the stage with award winning area high school students. This year was no exception.

At last weekend’s “Jazz of the Harlem Renaissance” shows, backed by the entire band, five outstanding high school guest musicians to solo turns in Thad Jones’ 1967 composition “Groove Merchant” earning standing ovations from both Saturday and Sunday audiences.

Check out this 1968 performance by the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis featuring Sir Roland Hanna

Jack Walters on clarinet with SRJO

Jack Walters

Jack Walters, from the Mountlake Terrace High School Jazz Ensemble, won 1st in State on Clarinet, was selected to National Association for Music Education (MENC) All-Northwest band, and was named Outstanding Tripler – on Tenor, Alto, and Clarinet, at Essentially Ellington 2011. Check him out in this 2010 Hot Java Cool Jazz performance of Artie Shaws “Concerto for Clarinet”, adapted for the MTHS band by SRJO’s David Marriott, Jr.

Ariel Pocock with SRJO

Ariel Pocock

Pianist Ariel Pockock, from Newport High School Jazzband, is also the band’s singer, and has sung with guest artists like Wycliffe Gordon and Lew Soloff (but that’s another story). Last year she won the high school division of the sixth annual Seattle-Kobe Female Jazz Vocalist Audition at Jazz Alley, and was selected to perform at McCaw Hall for Starbuck’s annual shareholders meeting. Check out this short interview with Ariel about her selection as a Bellevue Jazz Festival Rising Star.

Xavier Del Castillo with SRJO

Xavier Del Castillo

Roosevelt High School Jazz member Xavier Del Castillo was featured on Tenor Saxophone. Xavier was the only student from Washington State to be selected to the 2011 Grammy Jazz Band, was named Outstanding soloist on Tenor at the 2011 Essentially Ellington Competition, and was honored by an invitation to play in the intimate setting of “Hamp’s Club” at the 2011 Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival.

Ian Frost with SRJO

Ian Frost

Ian Frost, multi-reed player for Garfield Jazz, was also featured on Tenor Saxophone. Check out his solo on this hot performance of Thad Jones’ “Basically Yours” at the 2011 Reno Jazz Festival. Ian has performed with the Young Person’s Composers Orchestra, was named Outstanding Soloist on Tenor at the 2010 Essentially Ellington competition, and was a 2011 “Hamp’s Club” invitee.

Zack Hartmann with SRJO

Zack Hartmann

And, featured on Bass was Zack Hartmann, from SRJO trombonist David Bentley’s Mercer Island High School Jazz Ensemble. Zack was recently selected to the 2011 Bellevue Jazz Festival Rising Stars, and can frequently be heard with his own Zack Hartmann Trio. Many thanks to Zack and his fellow musicians for sharing their talent. As SRJO Artistic Director Clarence Acox announced at the end of each show, “jazz is in good hands.”

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Catch SRJO’s featured performance at Bellevue Jazz Festival

Tierney Sutton

Tierney Sutton

This weekend the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra closes out a sterling string of Bellevue Jazz Festival featured performers  including Regina Carter (June 1), Chris Potter (June 2), Tierney Sutton (June 3), and the Charles Lloyd Quartet featuring Zakir Hussain (June 4).

Their Sunday afternoon Meydenbauer Center performance  will feature audience favorites from this seasons main stage concert series, including selections from “Jazz Goes to the Movies,” “Tribute to Benny Goodman,” “Zen of Ten” and a preview of the upcoming “Jazz of the Harlem Renaissance” concert.

Randy Halberstadt and SRJO

Randy Halberstadt and SRJO

The Bellevue Jazz Festival Rising Stars open the 3:00 show. A component of The Bellevue Jazz Festival’s three-part program to educate emerging audiences of listeners and performers, selected student musicians workshop with Seattle area professionals to get “concert ready” for the festival’s main stage.

SRJO performers, including Jay Thomas, Randy Halberstadt, Bill Anschell, and Thomas Marriott, will appear in free concerts at a variety of downtown Bellevue venues. See the festival schedule for details.

Tickets for Meydenbauer Center feature performances can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets.

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SRJO Jazz Scholars in Denny International Middle School Concert

Tarik Abouzied and rehearses the band

Jazz Scholars instructor Tarik Abouzied

Student participants in the SRJO Jazz Scholars Program, which provides instrumental and jazz technique lessons for low-income middle school students, will be a featured part of the first Denny International Middle School/Chief Sealth High School end-of-year jazz concert.

Marcus Pimpleton

Marcus Pimpleton

The concert will take place on Friday, May 27 at 7:00 PM in the auditorium at Sealth High School, 2600 SW Thistle in West Seattle. Groups performing in the concert are led by Marcus Pimpleton, director of bands at Denny International Middle School and director of the Jazz II Band at Chief Sealth. Admission to the concert is free-of-charge.

Jazz Scholars is an educational outreach program of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, the award-winning professional big band now in its 16th season. An important part of SRJO’s mission is to support education through Jazz Scholars, and through Jazz4Kids concerts presented in tandem with SRJO’s subscription concerts.

Bill Anthony SRJO Jazz Scholars

SRJO trombonist Bill Anthony works with Jazz Scholars

Professional instructors selected by SRJO provide weekly individual or group lessons in the six areas of band instrumentation: saxophone and reeds, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass and drums. All instructors are experienced music teachers and active performers in the Seattle area. The instructors provide individual and small group lessons, and occasionally assist band director Marcus Pimpleton in sectional rehearsals for the entire jazz band.

The Denny concert will include performances by Denny’s Jazz Scholars, who have been working with these music instructors provided by SRJO. Jazz Scholars is supported in part by grants from the Clowes Fund, and from the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs Youth Arts Program.

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Is it Jazz or Classical?

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra’s “Tribute to Benny Goodman” includes the first movement from Igor Stravinsky’s “Ebony Concerto”

The lines between jazz and classical music have been blurring for a long time.  Early in the last century, as jazz was first emerging as a uniquely American art form, composers of all musical styles began to take note of the special rhythms, harmonies, melodic inflections, and timbral alteration that have since become the hallmarks of jazz. Throughout the 20th century, classical composers borrowed many “jazz elements” to bring modern, exotic flair to their works. Sounds of American jazz have made their way into every corner of classical music, and now it is almost impossible to find a contemporary classical piece that does not contain some jazz elements or influence.

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky’s EBONY CONCERTO (composed in 1946) is a brilliant example of a classical composer’s view of jazz. Stravinsky, of course, is among the most celebrated symphonic composers of the last century. His Firebird Suite, Rite of Spring, L’Histoire du Soldat, Les Noces, Octet for Winds, and much more, are all revered gems of 20th century concert music. Stravinsky often spoke about the influence that American jazz had on his composing, and we can hear jazz elements in almost everything he wrote. However, the Ebony Concerto goes far beyond merely employing “jazz elements.”  It was written to reflect Stravinsky’s “take” on American jazz, and it was his tribute to the art form. The instrumentation is essentially an American big band with clarinet soloist (the version we are working from was famously recorded by Benny Goodman in 1953). The melodic themes, and especially the vivid rhythmic syncopation of those themes, are reminiscent of several compositions by early American ragtime composer, Scott Joplin.

For the current discussion, I’d like to acknowledge that the terms “classical music” and “jazz music” are very difficult to define. Each genre has thousands of examples that defy any definition, and most contemporary examples of either genre cross over into yet other genres.  For the present, let’s narrowly define “classical” music as symphonic and/or chamber music that stems from the European art music tradition, focusing on the precise, virtuosic and artistically impactful presentation of works as conceived by their composers.  Let’s narrowly define “jazz” as music that evolved from the African-American syncopated dance music of the early 20th century, and that focuses on improvisation and ensemble work, placing high emphasis on rhythmic and harmonic complexity.

George Gershwin

The push to blur the lines between these two genres has come from both sides: classical composers employing jazz elements, and jazz composers/players employing classical elements. French impressionists Debussy and Ravel, and American composers Gershwin, Copland, and Bernstein are obvious examples of classicists who embraced jazz. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue utilized harmonies that, for its time, were at the cutting edge of jazz. Of course, Gershwin’s African-American opera Porgy and Bess is a masterpiece utilizing African-American thematic material.

On the jazz side, Duke Ellington pushed very hard to blur the lines, composing dozens of suites and extended works that he meant to be compared to the multi-movement symphonic works of classical composers.  He frequently expressed his admiration for many classical composers, and he often borrowed composition and orchestration techniques from classical composers of the past, and from some who were his contemporaries. Ellington expressed on numerous occasions his aversion for the label “jazz. ” He preferred to think of his music as contemporary African-American music.

Scott Joplin

Pre-dating Ellington by some thirty years, Joplin worked to blur the lines between classical music and African-American popular music, writing large-scale ragtime works such as his opera Treemonisha with a vision to bring American ragtime into fine concert halls. Jazz composers following in Ellington’s footsteps are numerous, but preeminent examples are Dave Brubeck, Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Kenton, and John Lewis with the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Placed in the middle between the classical and jazz composers are American popular song composers of the early 20th century, such as Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, and Irving Berlin. Though not considered jazz writers, they nevertheless utilized so many jazz elements that nearly all of their songs translate easily into jazz performances, replete with improvisation and vivid jazz inflection (such as bent pitches, altered rhythms, and distorted timbre).

In contemporary times, the “cross-over aesthetic” guides many improvisational musicians who find their music does not fit well into any narrow definition of the jazz or classical music genres. The same is true for many composers of what might be called “contemporary concert music.” Seattle is one of the world centers for music that explores the gray area between contemporary jazz and contemporary concert music. There are many artists living here who, like Duke Ellington, refuse to be labeled.

The definition of “jazz” expands with each passing year, as the musical traditions of more and more cultures are absorbed into jazz, and the musical sensibilities of each new generation add to the mix. Jazz has always reflected the melting pot culture of the United States, and this continues to be true.

It may be that the only a handful of defining characteristics can be heard in all forms of jazz from the past 110 years. I submit this short list of musical characteristics that I use to decide “is it jazz?” All of these are rooted in West African musical culture, and were adopted into the jazz culture of the United States. To the extent that these are omitted in a musical performance, I start to consider the music to be leaving the realm of jazz:

1. Improvisation

2. Prevalence of Rhythm Over Melody (or at least an equal status)

3. Group Interaction/Communal Music Making

4. Syncopation

5. Timbral Alteration (changing and distorting instrumental and/or vocal tone)

6. Call and Response

7. Open Ended Forms (a piece can be extended or shortened at the will of the performers)

8.  Heterogeneous Sound (mixture of instruments and/or vocal tones are intended to not blend together as a homogenous ensemble).

The Ebony Concerto was a fascinating mid-century milestone in the push-and-tug between classical and jazz. These days, so much “cross-over” has taken place that one would think it is no longer an issue. Yet, the controversy of assigning labels to music persists, and we continue to argue “what is jazz?”  With the Seattle Repertory Orchestra’s March 2011 performance of this piece, we hope to stimulate further discussion among our audience members.

What do you think?

-Michael Brockman

UW School of Music

Co-Artistic Director, SRJO

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