Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Vicky Dorvee

Kids get jazzed thanks to Niwot’s Jazz on 2nd Ave


October 5, 2018

Vicky Dorvee

Niwot Elementary School students participated in the first of several jazz education programs presented free of charge to Front Range schools through Colorado Jazz Group.

This year’s Jazz on 2nd Ave, the eighth year for the event, welcomed more than 1500 participants over the weekend of Sept 15-16, according to organizers. With the event’s profits used to fund jazz education, Colorado Jazz Group, the 501(C)3 non-profit organization that stages the festival, hopes to expand its visits to Front Range schools and continue to inspire a new generation of musicians.

2018 Jazz on 2nd Ave’s Funk and Jazz Festival

Festival director Rachel Cohen said total sales were up 10 to 20 percent over last year. Ticket prices were $25 per day, a $5 increase over last year’s price. This year’s program evolved to include a Sunday morning gospel performance by Ty Morris and House of Worship. Attendance numbers were estimated to be 1000 to 1200 for Saturday and 400 to 500 on Sunday morning.

Howard Treppeda, founder of the event, said turnout was lighter than hoped owing to the variety of other area festivals that same weekend.

The line-up of artists, local and international, began with Niwot High School’s (NHS) jazz band, whose members were given a polishing touch before the event by performers Mars Williams of Liquid Soul and Jeff Coffin, just off his tour with Dave Matthews.

NHS band director, Wade Hendricks spoke glowingly of the experience he and his students had in the pre-concert lessons.

“I was absolutely blown away by Mr. Coffin's educational approach to the group,” Hendricks said. “We knew our music pretty well at that point. I'd say we were playing it at an A level. He knew exactly what to do to bring us up to A+ concert sessions. I have NEVER heard the Advanced Jazz Band sound as good as they did that morning. They were right there with Jeff. He has a way of connecting with students at their level, showing them he cares about them, and it makes them want to work harder for him.”

Four other bands followed NHS’s jazz band - the Annie Booth Trio, the duo of Jennifer Hartswick and Nick Cassarino, Special EFX with special guest Nelson Rangell, and taking the event to a crescendo were Liquid Soul and Jeff Coffin.

Between acts, the Denver-based eight-piece horn and drum band, Brothers of Brass, surprised the crowd outside the tent with their high energy interludes of southern street-style music.

Colorado Jazz Group begins this year’s education program

Friday, Sept. 28 was the kickoff of the Colorado Jazz Group Goes to School program, a free of charge curriculum presented by educators and professional musicians to fourth and fifth graders with the goal of educating and inspiring future musicians. Colorado Jazz Group is now in partnership with the Vail Goes to School program, which is now in its 21st year. The program gets its funding through the proceeds of Jazz on 2nd Ave.

For the first of several visits to each school, a trio of musicians, Tony Gulizia, Mike Marnier, and Michael Pujado, visited Boulder’s University Hill Elementary School, Longmont’s Central Elementary School, Lafayette’s Ryan Elementary School and Niwot Elementary School (NES).

Despite the fact it was pajama day at NES, students weren’t the least bit sleepy.

Exploring the historical roots of jazz, Gulizia traced African slaves’ route to America and explained how, like a gumbo that mixes various ingredients together, along the way the basic elements of African music became mingled with the influences of the places they stopped at, beginning with the music of South American countries, and ending with southern music when they landed in New Orleans.

Students were swaying and nodding their heads while the musicians played Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” which also introduced them to the technique of call and response.

They learned firsthand how syncopation jazzes up familiar songs when the group was divided into three “tribes,” each clapping different rhythms to “My Favorite Things.”

Then Pujado explained the West African origins of the djembe drum and demonstrated each of the percussion instruments he plays, including the conga, maracas and his musical chair.

Toward the end of the session, four students were called up to the front of the room, quickly taught how to play a simple rhythm on percussion instruments, and performed a spontaneous piece with the professionals.

NES music teacher Abby Madry said, “In elementary music, we don't get to spend much time with jazz music, and it really benefits the students to learn about the style and see how a group makes jazz come alive. Many fifth-graders will be joining band in middle school, with an option to play in jazz band their second year, so this is a great opportunity for them to see the different instruments and the roles they play in a jazz group.”

The program will revisit these schools and more throughout the school year, continuing their outreach to inspire and educate students on music, jazz and instruments.

Jazz on 2nd Ave Marketing Director Marlene Natal wrote, “Colorado Jazz Group recruits the top international, legendary, and local jazz talent through generous contributions and the partnerships of sponsors.”

To support the efforts of Colorado Jazz Group, visit Jazzon2ndave.com and click on the donate button at the bottom the page.


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