Archive for Thursday, November 29, 2007

New age of jazz

Citywide alliance teaches music style to youths

Guitar player Luke Peirce practices during a rehearsal of the Lawrence All-City Junior High Jazz Band. The group met Tuesday at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive.

Guitar player Luke Peirce practices during a rehearsal of the Lawrence All-City Junior High Jazz Band. The group met Tuesday at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive.

November 29, 2007


Lawrence All-City Jazz Band

The band plays during rehearsal

Past Event
Ingrid Jensen & the KU Jazz Ensemble I

  • When: Thursday, November 29, 2007, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., Lawrence
  • Cost: $10 - $30
  • More on this event....

Paul Morgenroth, alto sax strapped to his neck, is looking around the room, hoping to find a brave soul to take an improv solo.

It's one thing for these junior high musicians to play off the printed page, and another for them to just play what the spirit moves them - preferably in the right key. Gradually, Morgenroth, co-director of the Lawrence All-City Junior High Jazz Band, finds a few takers.

For most of the 20 musicians in the room, this is their first venture into jazz performance.

"This is the first time I've been able to play in an actual band," says Keil Eggers, a drummer and ninth-grader at Southwest Junior High School. "I've been practicing for quite a while. My dad listened to it extensively, so caught onto that. It can be as complex or as easy as you want to make it."

The band, which practices Tuesday nights at Free State High School, is in its second year. But it's part of a bigger movement among Lawrence jazz fans and advocates who are trying to build more educational and performance opportunities in town.

The Lawrence Jazz Alliance, which has been meeting for about six months, will have its first major event tonight, when trumpeter Ingrid Jensen comes to town for a concert. She'll perform with the Kansas University Jazz Ensemble I at 7:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H., and proceeds will go to support the junior high band.

Jazz base

Members of the Lawrence Jazz Alliance include the Arts Center, Lawrence Public Schools, KU, Hume Music, Kansas Public Radio and the Americana Music Academy.

"We talked to people in the community, and we don't have a lot of jazz in our community," says Patrick Kelly, who co-directs the junior high group and is fine arts specialist for Lawrence Public Schools. "It's just not a form you hear."

The Arts Center did have a jazz series in 2005, but it was time-consuming and wasn't financially lucrative, says Ric Averill, drama program assistant at the center.

"I think it's very surprising," he says of the number of jazz fans in Lawrence. "We had very good attendance at the previous jazz series, and I expect we'll have good attendance for this (the Jensen concert), too."

Averill says it makes more sense for alliance members to pool resources for several big events each year. Tonight's concert, the first of those events, features Jensen, a native of Canada who is a member of the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra.

"We probably don't see as much jazz in the regular music venues in Lawrence," Averill says. "People go to Kansas City to see that. It's nice to see national-caliber artists coming in here."

Early start

Dan Gailey, director of the jazz program at KU, says it's important to have an educational component to the Jazz Alliance as well.

For instance, Jensen is meeting both with Lawrence Public Schools students and KU students during her time here.

And Gailey likes the idea of his KU band performing at the Arts Center.

"Being at the Arts Center gets us off the hill," he says. "It's more of a community-based thing. It's kind of an outreach for us."

is part of that educational component as well. Lawrence Public Schools offered a junior high jazz group for several years using volunteer teachers as directors, but that disbanded several years ago.

The band came back last year with a grant from the Lawrence Arts Commission. Now, the audition-only, 20-member band meets on Tuesday evenings.

"Getting them started early is tremendously important," Kelly says. "We can't have this huge gap in high school."

Kelly says he'd eventually like to see two of the junior high groups in town. There already are several high school bands at the city's two high schools.

Miles Bassett, who plays saxophone in the All-City Junior High Jazz Band, says he's not sure whether the group will be enough to spark widespread interest in jazz among his fellow young instrumentalists.

"Most people are more interested in pop culture," says Bassett, an eighth-grader at South Junior High School. "I don't know if it can come into popular culture, but we can bring out the better things of it, like the freedom of it."


idarastar 10 years, 2 months ago

That's great! I know I thoroughly enjoyed my experience playing in junior high band. More jazz in Lawrence would be awesome. Have fun at the show tonight, I wish I could make it.

rhythmislife 10 years, 2 months ago

I just thought that it would be appropriate to add that there are quite a few places to go see jazz in Lawrence on a weekly basis. Wednesday evening at the Eldridge (Bemsha Swing, and the OJT), Thursday evening at Pachamama's (Floyd the Barber), Thursday nights at the Taproom (Snuff Jazz), Sunday evening at the Taproom (Jazz at the Taproom), Sunday evening at the Gaslight Tavern (Bradford and Ardys), and this Saturday night at the Jackpot the African/Jazz/Funk group SUNU. This list if just off of the top of my head and I'm sure that there are more places that carry live jazz in town. It would seem to me that with junior high, high school, and university jazz programs and a recent increase in live jazz in restraunts and bars that jazz is making a comeback in our fair city.

PaulMorgenroth 10 years, 2 months ago

Great stuff! Thanks for the suggestions! Like Miles Bassett was saying, it's amazing we can keep classical and jazz music alive at all, considering it's nowhere besides occasional concerts and movie scores.

lawrence_native_at_KU 10 years, 2 months ago

I think there's a bit of information lacking in this article. Did the reporter not find out that Lawrence has previously had a All-City Junior High Jazz Band? I was in it in junior high and was dissapointed when it ended. In fact, I don't know why it fell apart.

It seems that this would be an important part of this story.

I'm looking forward to the concert tonight and hearing about Lawrence All-City Junior High Jazz Band concerts coming back.

shorttrees 10 years, 2 months ago

The All City Junior High Jazz Band program was revived last year thanks to the grant, and was directed by the very talented Darryl Cox and Tom Hunt last year, with equally talented directors this year taking on the task. It's a great program and my child LOVES the experience. They had a lot of kids audition this year, hopefully this program will continue.

Michael Stanclift 10 years, 2 months ago

I loved being in All City Jazz. I'm glad to hear its made a come back.

Tristan Moody 10 years, 2 months ago

I remember being in all-city jazz back in the day too. That was such a great experience.

nibblerx11 10 years, 2 months ago

im in High school jazz and i love it. im glad that its ther for Jr. High also!! ohh and i love Calvert P. hes in that band and i cant wate to see him in the consert!! hey Paul Morgenroth tell cal i said HI!!

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