The SFJAZZ All-Star Jazz Orchestra, led by director Paul Contos, playing at
San Francisco City Hall at the inauguration of the new mayor in 2012
THE PARENT PART
Though my sons both got their start in the California state school system and we enjoy a first-rate music department at our local public high school, we didn't have to look far for more advanced programs and instruction in jazz and classical music. In the Northern California Bay Area, we couldn't be better positioned. We are fortunate to be here, but we know many who have changed their lives in order to participate here. The large string bass, always a cause for conversation wherever we go, was the impetus for an interesting exchange with a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train engineer. This gentleman relayed that he relocated his family to the Bay Area, when it became clear that his intellectually and musically gifted son (winner of the Scripps Spelling Bee & Harvard student, just to name a couple of his numerous achievements) had quickly outgrown his small community's offering. He was comfortable expressing their clear goal to raise money for specialized services for their son, living in reduced circumstances, working past retirement to fund that goal. A former school music teacher relayed to me how he and his family lived in a trailer at the nearby fairgrounds in order to have a qualifying address for the school district where he taught so his children could enjoy that benefit. We also know kids who are taking commuter trains to the city or moving in with host families to take advantage of public or private 'Schools of the Arts'. Another family travels from out of state to see the valuable master classes with jazz professionals offered by one organization. As these kids are my son's friends and bandmates, it is of great interest. It makes us even more grateful for our own exemplary high school music educators, who feed this system reliably and consistently. Add to that the many local college offerings, community-based honor bands & orchestras, city-based arts programs and endless possibilities for private/group instruction and you can build an enriching music experience, tailor-made for your child.
Below is information on the two jazz programs with which we have the most experience. We would recommend them both highly for different reasons. There are several others which I'd be happy to include. If you have experience or a recommendation, please include your thoughts.
Qs for Parents: How far would you go to take advantage of a better program for your unique child? Would you move? Would you consider allowing your child to travel daily or weekly?
Qs for Students: It's a very brave thing to do, but...would you consider changing schools and possibly traveling further for a chance to spend more time studying what you love and to be around other kids & specialized instructors who felt the same way?
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA YOUTH MUSIC PROGRAMS
JAZZ:The JAZZSCHOOL in Berkeley, California, (www.jazzschool.org) situated in the heart of the Downtown Berkeley Arts district, is a music conservatory offering a myriad of options for solo or group instruction, composition and performance. The Jazzschool Institute offers a four-year degree in musical performance. In addition, The Jazzschool Community Music School offers community education including advanced High School classes, audition required*. The Jazzschool Advanced High School Studio Band is comprised of about 20 - 25 high school students, dedicated to the study and performance of standard and contemporary big band literature. Beyond their focus on performance, the band spends time in the recording studio, a very real-world experience for a young musician. The group also performs and competes at various national and international jazz festivals, including the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Next Generation Jazz Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland), the Vienne Jazz Festival (France), the Umbria Jazz Festival (Italy) and the North Sea Jazz Festival (Netherlands). There are also multiple options to join one of the Jazzschool Advanced High School Jazz Combos, with 6 to 8 musicians. These are groups of varying degrees of skill & instrumentation, each with their own dedicated director, audition required.* The Jazzschool also boasts a theater, a book and music store, and a photo gallery called the Jazz Image. Add a visit to their intimate and delicious Jazzcaffe for an unparalleled performance experience, or a lovely way to spend time while your child is in class. In addition to home performances, the band will play at various jazz clubs and venues such as Yoshi's in Oakland, Freight & Salvage Theater in Berkeley and local restaurants.
*audition requirements vary for different instruments and can be seen on the website (under Young Musicians & Studio Band), but in general include a required piece, a standard jazz piece of your choosing, sight-reading, and improvisation on rhythm changes
SFJAZZ (www.sfjazz.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to jazz music and the presenter of the annual San Francisco Jazz Festival. The January 2013 completion of the new SFJAZZ Center, a 35,000 sq. ft. glass-enclosed building devoted entirely to jazz, its performance and study makes it the only building fully dedicated to jazz in the Western US; it sits at the corner of Franklin and Fell in the beautiful Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. The SFJAZZ Collective is an 8-piece ensemble of the most prominent jazz performer/composers working today; launched in 2004 the group changes yearly and records their own themed album. In addition to hosting all types of jazz performance, SFJAZZ has a thriving education department which offers the popular Discover Jazz music appreciation classes for adults taught by expert jazz musicians, Jazz in the Middle for middle school students and Meet the Masters. Devoted to the future of jazz, SFJAZZ forms the yearly "All Star" bands. The SFJAZZ All Star Jazz Orchestra is an audition-only**, advanced high-school big band directed by Paul Contos. There is also an All Star Jazz Combo, directed by Dann Zinn. In addition to weekly rehearsals, the bands perform and compete at many festivals and venues including SFJAZZ Family Matinees (designed for younger students with a question-and-answer portion), the Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey, CA, the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival (Boston, MA), and the Mingus Festival (NYC). The All Stars performed at the Grand Opening of the new center, which was also broadcast live by NPR.
**audition requirements vary for different instruments and can be seen on the website (under Education and All Stars), but in general include a required piece, a standard jazz piece of your choosing, sight-reading, and improvisation on rhythm changes.