Chad Lefkowitz-Brown (Brubeck Fellow 08-10′) is featured as our first guest writer for the Brubeck Institute Blog.
Chad has been busy playing in and around New York, touring the country doing educational outreach, and finishing up production on a new record. Chad writes about his recent travels to Alaska:
“JazzReach Tour : I’ve just finished the last day of a two week tour throughout Alaska with the Metta Quintet. Earlier tonight we played at the Blue Loon in Fairbanks. The house was full and the audience was hugely appreciative so it was a really wonderful night! We ended up playing almost thirty events over the course of twelve days, including concerts, seminars and clinics throughout Anchorage and Fairbanks. Another Brubeck Institute alumnus, bassist Chris Smith, also happened to be in the group for the tour. I became acquainted with the Metta Quintet in 2008 when the group did a clinic at the Brubeck Institute. At that time, I was enrolled in my first year of the fellowship program. The Metta Quintet is the resident ensemble of a wonderful non-profit organization called JazzReach. The program was started twenty years ago by Hans Schuman, who is also the drummer in the quintet. JazzReach has developed educational concerts that feature interactive narration and multimedia. There are eight different programs that the Metta Quintet performs, each program featuring a different topic about jazz. Some of the programs are geared towards entertaining very young students, while the other programs are intended for a young adult or adult audience. The mission of JazzReach is “Through the presentation of innovative, widely acclaimed live multi-media educational programs for young audiences, captivating main-stage concerts for general audiences and informative clinics and master-classes for student musicians and ensembles, JazzReach is steadfastly dedicated to fostering a greater appreciation, awareness and understanding of this rich, vital, ever-evolving American art form.” It was an honor to do my first tour with JazzReach. The musicians in the band are some of New York’s finest, and the multimedia and narration are really engaging for the audiences, so it was really exciting to perform with the group. We played at wonderful performance spaces throughout Alaska, including the Discovery Stage at the Anchorage Performing Arts Center, and the Fairbanks Civic Center. We also worked with some great student musicians, who were really appreciative of our clinics. All the musicians in the Metta Quintet are exceptional teachers, so I learned a lot from observing their process. Greg Ward, the alto saxophonist in the Metta Quintet, was really great at working with large student groups and ensembles. He used a call-and-response approach that was very effective in engaging the students. He also inspired the ensembles to play with more mature phrasing and articulation. The seminars we did were particularly interesting. We did several seminars in Anchorage and Fairbanks on the process of jazz and improvisation. It was a fun challenge explaining, to groups of mostly non-musicians, how we improvise in music. I’ve found that any improvisatory concept can be explained by comparing musical improvisation to a spoken language. Improvising in music is like improvising a spoken conversation, and to learn how to improvise most effectively, it should be learned aurally like a language. One of the highlights of the trip was our experience performing for the Fairbanks Juvenile Detention Center. It was certainly the least glamorous venue, playing in the middle of a gymnasium, but it was very rewarding. We were surprised to find the young inmates were genuinely interested in our performance and asked a great deal of questions. Hans gave the kids some very inspiring thoughts after we played, talking about how fulfilling it is to have something constructive that drives you in life, whether or not it’s an artistic pursuit. I really think his words had a profound effect on many of them.
After I fly back to NYC tomorrow, I’ll be finishing the mixing and mastering for my debut album as a leader, “Imagery Manifesto”. I’ll be posting updates for that on my new website, www.chadlefkowitz-brown.com, so stay tuned!”
Thanks for reading!