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Jazz greats to mentor kids

Lindsay McClure, of the Record staff

Third-grader Jack Severson didn’t like going to music class. In-fact, according to his father Kris, he hated music. Some families would sign-up Jack for a soccer team under the assumption that music just wasn’t his thing, but Kris Severson is the executive director of the Park City Jazz Foundation (PCJF).

After closer examination, Severson realized that a lack of enthusiasm for music classes wasn’t unique to his son, but is present in many young musicians in the area. Abby McNulty, Park City Education Foundation (PCEF) executive director, said that her organization had also noticed an increasing number of students dropping out of music classes, especially at the middle school level.

Severson figured out that Park City, with its abundance of cultural activities and resources could use the Jazz Foundation’s musicians to enhance the music departments at local public schools.

What resulted is a program that kicks off this September whose objective is to use the PCJF’s resources to support and supplement existing middle school music programs. The program is a partnership between Jazz Foundation, PCEF, and the Ecker Hill International Middle School (EHIMS) honors band. The PCEF was brought on board to oversee the program and provide connections between local schools and the community. McNulty says she’s excited because this is one of PCEF’s first partnerships with an area non-profit in their area of expertise.

Severson explained that jazz music is an oral tradition that cannot be properly learned or understood from a sheet of paper. He believes music is most easily learned from playing with musicians who are better than you. Each week, the Jazz Foundation will send four expert musicians to the middle school honors band practice to play with the students. Each musician will serve as a mentor for a different section of the band. The rehearsals attended by the PCJF experts will take place Friday afternoons throughout the school-year. Severson explained that since the district has an early release schedule on Fridays, the program will be considered an after-school program.

The EHIMS honors band, comprised of about 100 young musicians, will break into smaller groups to work with the clinicians because, Severson explained, the experts will have a stronger impact if they work with a more intimate group. Severson said that they would try to keep consistency by sending the same teachers each week. The program will begin with two meetings in September.

The PCJF has worked with local schools in the past but, according to Severson, this is the first time that they are launching a full-blown program able to provide consistent support. In the past, their partnership with the schools has been in the form of special, short-term or one-day events.

Severson explained that the Park City High School (PCHS) has a really strong music program right now. The PCEF and PCJF recognized that the biggest need was at the middle school level, and hopes that this partnership will turn the middle school honors band into a "development program" for the high school music program.

According to McNulty, funding for the program will come from the PCJF. Severson said that the program will cost $5,000 each year which includes salaries for the instructors and administrators as well as necessary supplies.

Park City Jazz Festival opportunities for students

The Park City Jazz Festival, which runs Fri. Aug. 22 through Sun. Aug. 24, abounds with opportunities for local musicians in the area. The Jazz Foundation will hold a series of clinics in conjunction with the Jazz Festival. The free clinics will be held at Ecker Hill International Middle School and will be a chance for local musicians to play with professionals when they are in town for the festival. The PCJF website describes them as a, "lively, interactive, and a unique opportunity to learn technique right from today’s top performers." The clinics are open to the public and begin at 10 a.m. Clinic attendees will receive a free ticket to that nights jazz show. For more information visit http://www.parkcityjazz.org .

Also taking place during the Jazz Festival is a performance by the Park City High School all-star band. This performance will take place Friday Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. Before the band plays, information about the Jazz Foundation’s partnership with area music classes will be shared with the audience.


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