Fun for Mom, Junior and Daddy-O
Some of the jazz luminaries appearing in Prudential Hall at NJPAC’s TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival have other places to be that week – and luckily one of those destinations is NJPAC’s Center for Arts Education.
The musicians – tops in their field – will stroll across the parking lot toward the center, instruments in hand, to join in a robust collection of events planned for NJPAC’s Day of Swing on Saturday, Nov. 9. (The Moody Festival runs from Nov. 4-10.) Not only are the activities free and suited to all ages, but many are rare opportunities for music students to learn at the knee of the masters.
In this case, “bigger and better than last year” isn’t an empty boast. Eighty-seven-year-old jazz guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, a bona fide New Jersey treasure, rouses everyone for a session at 10am. The entertainment culminates in the late afternoon with a “Downtown Jazz Jam” that encourages musicians of all ages and expertise to catch the rhythm in the center’s Horizon Black Box Theater. Not a minute in-between is idle.
“NJPAC’s Day of Swing is an opportunity for all members of the community to become active participants in the TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival,” says Laurie A. Carter, Vice President of Arts Education. “The day features workshops, concerts and classes for people of all ages. The schedule is carefully crafted to provide hands-on experiences, as well as swinging jazz concerts. Families can spend the day learning about this great music in age-appropriate ways.”
Alison Scott-Williams, Assistant Vice President for Arts Education, says Day of Swing is as much for the parents – to help them understand the passion that motivates their musically-inclined youngsters. “Use this as a way to understand why you get up in the morning on a Saturday to drop your kid here” is her advice, dispensed with a wink to the many adults whose children participate in NJPAC’s arts programs.
This year, the Arts Education Department is partnering with Jazz House Kids – a Montclair-based arts organization that provides musical and cultural programs for students in grades K-12 – and the Newark Museum. Jazz House Kids conducts “Build a Jazz House,” which leads students step-by-step through the creation of a jazz piece in song, storytelling and musical accompaniment. Its “Jazz and American Culture” session for teens is a multimedia workshop that explores jazz and its pioneers, with an emphasis on the early 1960s.
The nearby Newark Museum hosts the only off-site event, a screening of the award-winning documentary The Girls in the Band (2011). This tribute to female jazz and big band instrumentalists from late 1930s America to today contains poignant stories told by such artists as Geri Allen, Marian McPartland, Esperanza Spalding and Jane Ira Bloom. As a bonus, director-producer Judy Chaiken and producer Nancy Kissock, along with some musicians in the film, are on hand for a panel discussion.
“One of the reasons we felt we had to show this film is because women in jazz have traditionally had a limited role,” says Scott-Williams. “This movie shows that their role is really limitless.”
A pair of high-caliber conversations – yes, still free of charge – includes the Pizzarelli session mentioned earlier, followed an hour later by a master class with bassist and composer Christian McBride (NJPAC’s Jazz Advisor) and R&B singer and songwriter Jeffrey Osborne (at right). Pizzarelli, a seven-string guitarist and banjoist, spent his early career as an NBC staff musician and counts Benny Goodman, Zoot Sims, Les Paul and Stéphane Grappelli among his many collaborators. Accompanied by guitarist and composer Ron Jackson, as well as members of NJPAC’s jazz faculty, Pizzarelli performs a brief concert and discusses his storied career and musical techniques.
The Grammy-winning McBride, an important presence in this season’s jazz programming and performances, teams up with Osborne to offer advice and guidance to participants in NJPAC’s Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens. Osborne, who has enjoyed a three-decade career as an R&B hitmaker, has recorded with James Ingram and Dionne Warwick, among others. Together the musicians intend to deepen the teenage students’ understanding of the past, present and future of jazz and contemporary music.
Acclaimed vibraphonist and educator Stefon Harris, the Artist in Residence for the new Brick City Jazz Orchestra – NJPAC’s big band for gifted young musicians – leads a “Jazz Theory” class for 13-year-olds and up, a primer to jazz composition.
And little ones won’t miss out on the fun because “Explore-a-Jazz-Story” invites children up to 6 years old to experience literature with a jazz theme through rhythm, movement and vocalization. The stories practically leap off the page in this “play-shop,” the result of a partnership with the National Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts.
Elsewhere, the building is bound to tremble from all the good vibes. Here are some highlights:
• Workshops in swing dance, “What Makes Latin Jazz Latin?,” jazz slam (improve, rhyme and spoken word), “How to Listen to Jazz Music” and “The Art of Improvisation.”
• A “Percussion Jam” connecting African rhythms to modern jazz.
• Performances by the score, with a showpiece concert by NJPAC’s jazz faculty and the “Downtown Jazz Jam.” There’s a “Kids Swing Concert” for instrumentalists, as well as a “Swing Choir” for singers.
“Our vocal students learn songs, but to sing together as a choir? That’s an opportunity they don’t get on a weekly basis,” says Scott-Williams. “This enhances their weekly experience with us.”
Click here for more about NJPAC’s Day of Swing.
Oct. 21, 2013