When I was a student at Overland Avenue Elementary School, the Hamilton High School jazz band came to perform in our school auditorium. They played “In the Mood” and teased us with several “false endings” before starting up again. That moment has stuck with me my entire life and I now consider myself a “jazz lover.” It is a reminder that young people “can’t love what they don’t know.” In a world where access to these experiences is not distributed evenly, we have an obligation to reach out and share this essential American art form. I was proud we had a chance to reach hundreds of students, thanks to GRoW @ The Wallis, JazzReach, and The Arturo Sandoval Institute.
JazzReach (http://jazzreach.org/) is a New York City-based nonprofit that shares this essential American art form with young people. The Wallis was fortunate to collaborate with JazzReach on a series of outreach events the week of January 15, 2018. We began Tuesday morning with assembly presentations in two LA area schools – 20th Street Elementary and Ritter Elementary in Watts. After hearing the Metta Quintet perform, students learned of the basic elements in music – melody, harmony, and rhythm. The musicians then demonstrated how each of them contributes specific elements to make the whole. It was thrilling to watch the students lean in and engage with the music. The assembly program continued Wednesday and Thursday with morning visits to Montebello Gardens and Bella Vista Elementary in Montebello.
Friday morning we hosted a student matinee at The Wallis in our Lovelace Studio Theater. JazzReach presented a special performance about the history of the blues for students from Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary and Alliance Skirball Middle School. “Yes, Indeed” told the story through music and historic video clips and photographs projected on a screen above the stage. The mix of a charismatic narrator, great live music, and powerful images created a powerful learning experience.
Finally, Friday evening we hosted a public performance of the Metta Quintet playing alongside the jazz big band from Foshay Learning Center, under the direction of their talented music teacher, Vince Womack. The JazzReach musicians had been at Foshay the previous two afternoons working to prepare these students for their special opportunity. The chance to perform in a professional venue like The Wallis meant a great deal to the Foshay students and their families. You could feel their pride as they had this special chance to play with master artists. Our friends at LAUSD created a terrific blog post about this partnership https://lausd.wistia.com/medias/wqn1gs18cz.
On January 25, 2018 we joined with Arturo Sandoval Institute (http://arturosandovalinstitute.org/) to present a master class with the legendary artist in our Goldsmith Theater. Before a large audience of jazz educators and their students, three student jazz ensembles had a chance to play for and with Arturo Sandoval. The musicians from Neighborhood Music School, Hamilton High School Academy of Music, and Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center gained new insights about performing and about the life of a musician. In addition, many had a chance to trade solos with Sandoval.
All of these activities served to remind us that the future of the performing arts depends on all of us. Those privileged to make a career in the arts have an obligation to play it forward to the next generation. I’m proud we can do our part at The Wallis.
Author: Mark Slavkin, Director of Education at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Source publication: The Wallis Grow Blog