“Of all the things we are proud of in the past 10 years, our students are at the top,” indicates Lonnie Davis, founder and CEO. The mission of JazzArts Charlotte includes education, performance, and musician support. While creating a strong culture for jazz in Charlotte currently is the immediate goal, the future of jazz rests in the hands of the students.
Hundreds of students have participated in the Youth Ensembles and Summer Camps programs. No matter how long ago, JazzArts Charlotte remembers each one. Many of these students also tell us how they were impacted.
“My first day there, December 2011, I walked in the door with a friend Steven,” remembers Luther Allison. “They were playing ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’. I was handed sheet music, and was at a loss. It was covered in triangles and circles and chords; nothing like classical music. I remember how supportive and encouraging everyone was, from teachers to students. That was the culture: embracing and encouraging. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. It helped me become confident.”
Today, Luther lives in New York, teaching jazz at Calhoun High School. After graduating from Michigan State with a graduate degree in jazz studies, drums and piano, he moved to New York performing, and began this teaching position just 6 weeks ago. Now on the other side, he says “teaching is a second chance to learn.”
“Fulfilling,” describes Malcolm Charles, former student and current career musician, “with respect to the music, the concerts, the knowledge of the music.” Students like Malcolm consistently talk about being challenged musically, and while they were all given the responsibility to solo, the positive reinforcement turned that initial fear into confidence. “You started with jam sessions with the instructors, were surprised with visits from legendary jazz musicians. Once you were in the more advanced groups, you got real experience in gigs, and were given the responsibility of putting together the music and the show.” Malcom laughs as he adds “There were times I mean that literally – we drove quite a ways, and I went straight from church to rehearsal, so sometimes my teacher brought me food.”
Malcolm went to Northwest School of the Arts, and while he lives here in Charlotte, he spends a significant amount of time in New York at venues like the Blue Note and Smalls.
Former Ensemble student Matthew Gale is not a career musician, and yet believes JazzArts Charlotte heavily influenced him professionally. “I attribute today what I do to JazzArts Charlotte’s strong foundation. Besides the music, you are using leadership, team building, communications skills. It’s not a typical band class.”
Matthew is currently in his third year at Howard University in Washington DC, studying Mechanical Engineering. But he also admits, “I will always see myself going back to music in some capacity. It’s part of my identity.” On the side, he is currently in the process of recording an EP.
JazzArts Charlotte has students who have grown into adults, and continues to feel like proud parents. From Boone to Harvard to on tour in Greece, from the next generation of renowned musicians to engineers, JazzArts Charlotte is thrilled to watch our students grow. We believe the benefits of studying jazz played a vital part.