Jazz Festival to nurture students' passionYoung jazz musicians have a rare opportunity to expand their musical knowledge and learn from state and national musicians Tuesday, when Mitchell hosts the Palace City Jazz Festival.
By: Jennifer Jungwirth, The Daily Republic
Young jazz musicians have a rare opportunity to expand their musical knowledge and learn from state and national musicians Tuesday, when Mitchell hosts the Palace City Jazz Festival.
The event, which takes place at the Dakota Wesleyan Sherman Center, is a non-competitive event that focuses around jazz education. The daylong festival includes jazz clinics in the morning and afternoon followed by a public concert at 7 p.m.
Yamaha Performing Artists Rex Richardson, Tom Brantley and Jeff Rupert, along with Sioux Falls musicians Jeremy Hegg, Chuck Case and Nathan Jorgensen, will lead the clinics. The evening concert includes a performance by Richardson, Brantley and Rupert, as well as the Mitchell High School jazz band. Tickets to the public performance are $5 in advance and $8 at the door and are available at The Tumbleweed, Paulson Music and County Fair Foods.
The MHS jazz band attends about five music events a year, but they are all competitive.
“We wanted to do something that was more educational for the kids and directors,” Mitchell band director Ryan Stahle said. “We want the kids to learn about what they are playing. So few kids listen to jazz.”
Stahle has incorporated guest musicians into his classroom curriculum in years past, but never quite to this level. Richardson, Rupert and Brantley will work with Mitchell music students on Monday prior to the festival. Six bands, along with Mitchell middle and high school ensembles, will attend the festival. The schools include Brookings, Aberdeen, West Central, Madison and Sioux Falls Washington.
“The students will walk away being motivated and excited to learn more about their instrument. They will see (the musicians) at that high level and where you can get with hard work in practice,” Stahle said.
Rupert, a tenor saxophonist, is the director of jazz studies at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and has been playing professionally for 30 years. He travels the country and the world, encouraging jazz musicians. Some of his travels have taken him to New Zealand, Japan and Australia, but he said that he still finds some of the best jazz bands in the Midwest.
“This is a lot of fun to do. It gives kids a chance to rub elbows with the pros,” he said. “I still remember doing this when I was in high school. It was a defining moment for me.”
The festival begins with a morning clinic on jazz improvisation, led by Richardson, Brantley and Rupert. The clinic is what Mitchell junior bass guitarist Michel Temple is looking forward to most.
“We’re definitely going to be able to learn a lot about stylistic jazz. The whole group will benefit from this lesson,” he said.
Improvisation is a large part of the jazz style, Rupert and Stahle said. The clinic will aid the students in learning how to conduct a solo without notes or a written format.
“In jazz band you have really strong teamwork, but most people are also required to be soloists, be themselves and show their style,” Rupert said.
Sophomore drummer Kathleen Serie hopes to learn some beat variations that will help improve her playing while listening to the clinicians, especially Sioux Falls drummer Chuck Case.
In the afternoon, the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society will present its Jazz and Blues Diversity Project, which walks students through the history of jazz from the early 1900s and the origins of this music genre.
Mitchell music students in grades five through 12 will attend this presentation along with the rest of the festival attendees.
There’s a large interest in jazz music at MHS, and Stahle said that’s fortunate for the students and school.
“Jazz is actually the only truly American art form,” he said. “Everything else just originated in Europe.”
Rupert agreed, adding that in Japan and Eastern Europe, there’s a deep appreciation for jazz music.
But even if students choose not to pursue a career in music, Rupert said he hopes the festival and presentations will at least give them a lesson in nurturing their passion.
“Hopefully, whatever they do in their life they will treat with the same passion as they do playing in the high school jazz band,” Rupert said.