April is Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), created by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to herald and celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz. JAM is intended to stimulate the jazz scene and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz — to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings and read books about jazz.
In South Florida we celebrate jazz year-round with great programs in public and private schools as well as community art programs. Three local ensembles, the New World School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble (Jim Gasior, director), Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble (Christopher Dorsey, director) and the CAP All-Star Jazz Ensemble (Dan Strange, director) placed among the 15 American high school band finalists invited to compete in the prestigious Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival on May 7-9 in Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.
This is a huge deal for South Florida because these three outstanding bands swept the region finals that included bands from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Canada.
The Glades Middle School Concert Jazz Band, under the direction of Erich S. Rivero, has been invited to perform at the prestigious 69th Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago in December, and the Miami Senior High School Jazz Band, under the direction of alumnus Juan Turros, a member of the funk/jazz group Suénalo, received Straight Superior Honors at the Florida Bandmasters Association Music Performance Assessment at the district and state levels, an honor they had not achieved in decades.
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These wonderful ensembles need “angels” who will help with their travel plans as they go off to represent South Florida.
Jazz grows thanks to some of the most prestigious, talented and dedicated jazz faculty and students at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, Florida Memorial University, Miami Dade College and Florida International University. They’re all giving back to the community in many ways. FIU faculty and jazz trombonist Chad Bernstein, another Suénalo member, was named CNN hero for helping Miami kids choose “Guitars Over Guns.”
We’re proud of all our wonderful veteran and young musicians, and thank them for keeping jazz thriving.
We urge the community to support and celebrate the rich heritage of jazz in South Florida.
Maggie Pelleyá, general manager, WDNA 88.9 FM public radio, Miami