With lead funding from United Airlines and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz will introduce its “Peer-to-Peer” jazz education program in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland public schools February 24-28. Combining performance with information, these “informances” will be presented by six of the country’s most exceptionally gifted high school music students along with internationally acclaimed jazz trumpeter and 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition winner Ambrose Akinmusire. Also on hand will be Kansas City vocal sensation Lisa Henry – a former winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition – and renowned jazz educator Dr. JB Dyas. Each school visit will include an assembly program featuring a musical performance for all students, followed by jazz workshops for each school’s jazz band and choir with the visiting student performers playing alongside and sharing ideas with their Bay Area counterparts.
Besides playing jazz at a level that belies their years, the students will talk with their Bay Area peers about what jazz is, why it’s important to America, and how a jazz ensemble represents a perfect democracy. They also will discuss the important American values that jazz represents: teamwork, freedom with responsibility, unity with ethnic diversity, the correlation of hard work and goal accomplishment, and the vital importance of really listening to one another. When young people hear this message from kids their same age, they are often more likely to listen.
Immediately following the informances, Akinmusire, Henry, and Dyas will conduct jazz workshops for each host school’s jazz band and choir in which the visiting students will play with their Bay Area counterparts side-by-side, providing tutelage peer to peer. In so doing, they will teach and learn from one another just like Thelonious Monk did with his fellow musicians during the bebop era some 60 years ago. They’ll also learn about each other’s cities and culture.
The weeklong stint will include a show open to the public February 26 at Yoshi’s San Francisco, 1330 Fillmore Street, where Bay Area residents and visitors are invited to enjoy an evening of music with Akinmusire and Henry alongside jazz’s future “young lions.” The octet will perform standards, jazz classics and contemporary jazz, as well as compositions from Akinmusire’s and Henry’s latest recordings.
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