Danny Meyer: Can you talk about the idea of creating a youthful jazz audience. The idea of creating a youthful jazz audience and your experience of having been involved with teaching elementary band for about 22 years.
Joe Anderies: During that time I got the notion one day to start using mentor musicians to come in and play along with the kids and arrange music, both for band and orchestra kids in primarily grades five and six, to be able to play jazz, trade solos, interact with the professionals.
First of all in class, but later it became a yearly thing where spring concert we would have the band groups and they would have a jazz rhythm section, usually somebody like Paul Romaine, Eric Gunnison, Mark Simone and then quite often an extra soloist besides myself, somebody like Hugh Regan, or Ron Miles or Greg Gisbert would come in and trading solos with the kids.
The enlightening part for me was to see kindergartners sitting in the first row watching these concerts and then follow by first graders, second graders, third graders, and then of course each year those kids would move up into the higher grades, and then that would start band in the end of the summer. The fifth graders, the population of kids interested in starting band just went higher and higher, I think after kids got to see that.
Then, in later years, I’ve had the experience of many, many former students showing up to hear jazz just based upon seeing a posting on Facebook or emails that I’ve been able to keep connected with those students. I think, also in Denver, is a great visualization of that whole scenario where in the early years of my jazz mentoring program, Paul Romaine, of course was one of the first people to do that program with me.
It was actually from that program that he and his wife got the idea to start CCJA, and of course now, over many years, there has been the interaction of youth in the jazz clubs like Dazzle and other jazz clubs incorporating and supporting the youth, the younger performers and the families; making it a family-oriented type of venue where families can bring their young kids down to hear jazz. I think it’s really created a completely different vibe in Denver than I’ve noticed in many other cities that don’t have that sort of a program going on.
Ultimately, I have seen if we don’t want to continue to see the “graying jazz audience” that’s fading out, which is always seems to be a common theme in many musicians postings is that we have to create the audience starting at a youthful age and you’ve got to nurture that. It’s like planting seeds and continuing to water them.
I think the idea of jazz musicians volunteering a few concerts a year to go out and play free at an elementary school or middle school is huge. What can happen over a long period of time if we cultivate that kind of family, because there’s really nothing like live music.
Every kid in the world has music in their ears as they’re walking around, but the first time those middle school, high school kids, elementary kids come down to Dazzle with their parents to hear jazz, they’re just lit up at the end of the night. They want to go talk to all the musicians on stage. kids that I’ve had like that, I see back in school the following week when I’m teaching, they’re just telling all their friends about it and talking about the next time they get to come down. I think we have to create that momentum for the future or absolutely we will see it continue to gray and fade away.
Danny: That’s great. Thank you.
We can do great things if we do them together.