The New York-based group JazzReach will perform “The First 100 Years of Jazz” for two groups of local students on the Grand Theatre’s Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis stage. The multimedia show combines video and speech with live jazz.
Music students from Tracy and West high schools, Monte Vista Middle School and other schools will be in the audience.
Nick Fryer, associate director of the Brubeck Institute, said he thought it was valuable to take music education to students.
“The state of jazz education is bigger and better than it’s ever been,” Fryer said. “Some of the kids I hear playing are younger and better than ever before.”
The institute, founded in 2001 at Dave Brubeck’s alma mater, continues the life work of the late jazz pianist and composer. Fryer said part of its mission is reaching the community with concerts and workshops.
The JazzReach performance will range from the early roots of jazz in New Orleans to the present day with two shows for students at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
“In general, we’re targeting the younger kids, equally talking about history and everything that goes into making music,” Fryer said. “They really focus on education as part of their performance.”
Monte Vista Middle School music teacher Randy McMillan plans to take 150 students to the jazz education program.
“It is really an amazing opportunity for my students to hear about the roots of jazz from professional jazz musicians that have paid their dues and now get to give back playing to students all across the country,” McMillan said.
In addition to a concert band class and an orchestra class during the day, McMillan also has an after-school Tuesday jam session, a Wednesday jazz band and a Friday funk band that plays rock-based jazz music.
McMillan said he would be taking all his music students, including the orchestra and concert band, and hoped they’d all come away with an appreciation of jazz.
“I just want them to get a taste of what jazz is,” McMillan said. “Some will go having never played jazz or never heard jazz — and some will come thinking saying ‘Jazz is cool’ and really liking it.”
Juan Diaz, a seventh-grader, is in the second group. He plays a semi-hollow-body jazz guitar in McMillan’s jazz and funk bands. Though he has never been to a jazz concert, he has followed the blues and swing sounds of artists including B.B. King and Eric Clapton.
“It’s a good opportunity. I want to learn something new,” he said. “I want to experience the music, learn some new techniques.”
Juan said he hoped to perform with a high school jazz band and a jazz group some day.
“I like swing but want to see another style,” Juan said.
McMillan said he was excited for his students to hear professional jazz players in person.
“When you’re a young musician growing up, you don’t get that opportunity very often, unless it’s on recordings,” he said. “It’s an amazing event.”
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.