Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wynton Marsalis and jazz band inspire young musicians

Walter Blanding, tenor saxophone with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, recently told a group of music students that playing an instrument can make them a better person.

As part of our community outreach program, about 15 jazz students from Inverness Middle School attended the jazz concert at the Straz Center, which featured Wynton Marsalis. Inverness Middle School is one of our community partners.
The school’s music director Barbara Dover accompanied the students to the concert. She shares her experience here:
Barbara Dover with Wynton Marsalis at the Straz Center.
By Barbara Dover, Music Director at Inverness Middle School
The concert last night was amazing! You know it's going to be great when the orchestra gets a standing "O" before they ever play a note! Marsalis quipped something like, "We haven't even played yet; you need to sit down." They opened with Marsalis' "Bullet Train" from the Big Train CD, which was great for my students since we had listened to some of that CD in class. Then they played “Senor Blues” by Carlos Henriquez, the bass player. Loads of solos on everything they played. Then "Black Warrior" by Sherman Irby, the lead alto sax player, but the saxes played everything onstage from flutes to bass clarinets. Then a version of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" by Marsalis was the closer of the first set. Cool chart.
The second set flew by with 2 movements from "Vitoria Suite:" "Jason and Jasone" and "Basque Song." Have to get that CD since I've heard lots from that suite on this tour, from either the live streaming or live concert. Through the brain fog of this morning, I can't remember the name of the other chart, but they closed the set with Marsalis' version of Art Blakey's "Free For All." (Marsalis' introduction to that chart reminisced from playing in Blakey's band when he was 18-19 and how "sad" they were. He said that after the concert, Blakey would say, "That was sad. Meet us in Boston." And after that concert, Blakey would say, "That was sad. Meet us in Baltimore.")
After that fantastic closer, the crowd went wild with a couple of other musicians (local maybe?) on trumpet and trombone coming out to play a Dixieland chart. (The kids thought it was "Rock Around The Clock" due to the chord progressions, but the melody didn't sound quite like that to me.) And then more applause from the audience prompted a second encore with just Marsalis in a major trumpet groove, Dan Nimmer on piano, Carlos Henriquez on bass, and Ali Jackson on drums. Fabulous! (The house lights were up at that time, so I threw out the rules and shot a few photos. Our seats were that good, Orchestra Row R!)
Then my Jazz Band kids, their parents, and I went down to the stage to meet and get autographs from trombonist Vincent Gardner who was talking to folks. (I didn't get his autograph.) After that, we stood outside at the stage door to meet musicians as they left.
We met and got autographs from Marcus Printup, trumpet, who is from Conyers, GA. He asked the kids their favorite musicians and one of my trumpets, Jenny, told him Louis Armstrong because of his technique. He commented on how intelligent an answer that was since technique didn't always mean playing a lot of notes, but also meant understanding the nuance of the instrument. He gave her an "A+" for her answer. I conversed with him about euphoniumist Adam Frey who is from Conyers and coincidentally went to the same high school as him, except Printup is 10 years older. (Printup signed my Big Train CD liner and remarked that the young boy on the front of the liner was now 16 and is Marsalis' son.)
Victor Goines, tenor saxophone, talked about being in kindergarten with Marsalis and how they grew up together playing music. He told my saxophonist Brittany to listen to Coltrane's "Giant Steps" recording and mentioned how Marsalis was playing Coltrane on his trumpet at a young age. When asked what "equipment" he uses, he listed brand after brand from Selmer Mark VI saxes to Selmer and Buffet clarinets. He told us his collection of saxophones was his only vice and how his teaching at Northwestern helps to pay for them. When he autographed my Big Train CD liner, he said that he helped to take down those arrangements.

We had the most wonderful inspirational talk from Walter Blanding, tenor saxophone. He told the kids,

Playing an instrument allows them to get to know themselves better and express themselves creatively.

He shared that,

No matter what they end up being or doing, playing an instrument can make them become a better person.

He talked about the therapy of playing a keyboard or something that you can see and strike! He was awesome! I wish I could have videotaped that whole talk; it was at least 10 minutes of advice and words of wisdom!
We chatted with and got autographs from Carlos Henriquez, bass, and I told him about seeing his wife chat during the concert that was live-streamed from Atlanta about the lions-head scroll on his bass. He groaned and said that she must have written that he said it looked like her when she was mad at him! (Which she did.) 
Then out came the chains to keep those of us that were still there from mobbing Marsalis. We waited and the kids got a little antsy, but understandably so. One of my trumpets, Graham, was quiet and said he was conserving his energy, for meeting Marsalis?
We waited awhile longer and then Wynton Marsalis came through the stage door saying, "Y'all have been waiting a long time," and walked over to us first! He signed my "Marsalis on Music" book, ticket stub, and CD liner for Big Train that already had autographs on it from Printup, Goines, Blanding, and Henriquez. I told him that 10 years, 1 month, and 1 day ago, some more of my jazz band kids and I saw him in Gainesville and that I was sure he remembered us! He laughed and said, "I sure do!" Then I had my photo taken with him and commented, "This is gonna be my new facebook profile picture!" and he laughed and laughed. One of my kids told him she liked his blue tie and I mentioned that they noticed that the sections color coordinate their ties. He commented, "Oh, you know that's something trumpets do." When one of my parents said he had an awesome trombone section because her son Andrew plays trombone, he gave her a look as if to say, "Hey, what about the trumpets?!" (About halfway through the "meet and greet," security took down the chains, saying that Marsalis had requested that be done with the remark, "This is jazz; take those down.")

He signed autographs and talked to the kids. I got a parent to have a couple more CD liners autographed for me. I took some more photos of parents and kids with Marsalis, and as we left, I told Marsalis that after that concert 10 years ago, he kissed my Mama and how she still talks about it. He remarked, "Tell her I enjoyed it very much!"

Such a kind, funny, talented, and generous man.
It was an eventful evening and one that I know the kids, their parents, and I will remember for a long, long time.

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