Over a long weekend recently I was delighted to attend three performances that included young Jazz musicians. We are blessed here in the NW corner of Washington to have several Jazz educators working with young musicians – introducing them, teaching them, and mentoring them in the art form we love – Jazz. This month I will highlight the ones I’ve heard and known in the past few years.
Whatcom County can count three professional Jazz musicians who provide leadership for young musicians. Mark Kelly, saxman and flautist, works primarily with Middle School age students under the auspices of the Jazz Project with the Bellingham Youth Jazz Orchestra – a young Big Band. Julian MacDonough, drummer, Artistic and Education Director of the Whatcom Jazz Music Art Center (WJMAC) works primarily with High School students in a small combo format. At Western Washington University, trumpet player, Kevin Woods works with the students there in both big bands and combos.
Here in Skagit County, we look to the schools for this kind of leadership. When he can round up enough musicians, Vince Fejaran puts together a Jazz Ensemble at Skagit Valley College. Anacortes High School looks to Ian Simensen. Jake Scherr heads the Jazz program at Mount Vernon High School. Brad Henry does the same at Sedro-Woolley High School. Two Middle Schools in Mount Vernon also have Jazz Programs: Amy McFeely directs the program and LaVenture; Andrea Brannman at Mount Baker.
I’m certain this is not an exhaustive list – though it does note all the programs I’ve listened to and enjoyed over the past years.