Jan 30, 2015 - TULSA ALL-CITY JAM'BASSADORS BENEFIT CONCERT SET FOR FRIDAY
If you're one of the music aficionados who've been showing up for the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame's Tuesday evening jam sessions at Tulsa's Jazz Depot, you may also have discovered even more jazz being played in the building during that time.
“Sometimes we've had people listening to the jam session that goes on out in the lobby, and then they've come around and poked their heads in and listened to us rehearse,” says Doug Styers, who co-directs the Tulsa All-City Jam'bassadors with jazz musician Tim Shadley. “It makes for a very musical evening.”
The Jam'bassadors rehearse at the Depot every Tuesday for about three hours, beginning at 6 p.m. And when they're gearing up to participate in a national event, according to Styers, they'll take another day and double their rehearsal time. No wonder he calls the band members “some of the hardest-working kids I've ever worked with.”
Much of that work goes toward perfecting the numbers that the Jam'bassadors plan to play at various events and contests, such as the Charles Mingus Festival and Competition, coming up in mid-February in New York City. Friday, however, local jazz fans will be able to hear the work of the band in concert – not rehearsal – at the Jazz Depot, with proceeds benefitting the group's outreach and education.
“We'll be performing the three pieces we've prepared for the Mingus Festival this year, as well as a couple of pieces we did up there the year before,” Styers says. “We'll do [the Mingus composition] `Moanin',' which is kind of their signature song, one that they really like to play. And we'll be playing at least one of the Basie tunes we're taking to the Basically Basie festival in Kansas City in April. It's called `Hayburner.'”
The Tulsa All-City Jam'bassadors first came together in 2012, when the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, with Styers and Shadley at the helm, put the members together as one of its educational-outreach programs. The subsequent band, composed entirely of Tulsa-area students, became the only group from the southwestern U.S. to be chosen as a finalist in the nationwide Charles Mingus High School Competition.
This year, according to Styers, the aggregation has grown to almost 40 members, with participants from Tulsa's Edison (where Styers is an assistant band director), Hale, Booker T. Washington, and East Central high schools, as well as the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences.
“This year, we also have a couple of home-schooled kids involved with us,” he notes, “as well as a big group of kids from Verdigris High School, which has a great band program.”
The Jam'bassadors are open to all Tulsa-area high school musicians, with auditions usually taking place early in the school year – although the term “auditions,” says Styers, is a little misleading.
“We hold a kind of all-call sight-reading audition with the whole band, just to see how well everyone can read and what parts we can put in,” he explains. “It's not really an official audition. But I think next year, just because we have so many kids, we'll be going through come-in-and-play-for-us auditions on an individual basis. These kids, though, are all capable of reading some pretty tough [musical] literature right away, so it's been really good. They're all very, very dedicated, and being around each another lifts them up to another level of playing. I'm really proud of what they're doing.”
The money raised by Friday's show, Styers says, will help defray the cost of getting the Tulsa Jam'bassadors to various competitions and other educational events this year. And there are plenty to choose from.
“I'm taking them to New Orleans for the Essentially Ellington competition and the official Ellington clinics, which all happen at the end of February. We have the Basie contest in April, and the possibility of the Monterey [Next Generation] Jazz Festival [in March]. We'd have to submit our entry to that in the next couple of weeks.
“I'd really like to ask people to come out and support this group,” he concludes. “These kids deserve all the support they can get.”
“It’s inspiring to witness the exceptional talent of our Tula Jam’bassadors. The hard work, determination, and love of music these young musicians bring to the stage will make for an incredible concert this Friday,” says Jason McIntosh, Jazz Hall CEO. “We are proud of our award-winning Jam’bassadors, and appreciate all the support our community has provided.”
The Tulsa All-City Jam'bassadors Benefit Concert is set to begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday, February 6, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street. Tickets can be purchased at the Depot, from www.jazzhalltickets.com, or by calling 918-928-JAZZ. General admission is $15, reserved table VIP seating $25.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.