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0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f739cf0000Arts & More airs Fridays at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.Theme music: "Like A Beginner Again" by Dan Barry of Seas of Jupiter

What Are You Going To Do With That Jazz? Workshop Gives Students Options

Benje Daneman teaching at a jazz clinic in Nebraska
courtesy of Benje Daneman

The Summer JazzStart program is a three-day workshop put on by the new Kalamazoo Jazz and Creative Institute. The institute will host a free show Wednesday night at The Union Cabaret & Grille.

The show features performances from six local jazz groups and an open jam session. Music starts at 6 p.m. and the jam session starts at 9 p.m.

Loy Norrix High School Jazz Band Director and local musician Benje Daneman started the institute just last month along with his wife and fellow musician Ashley Daneman and local artist Nich Mueller. 

Loy Norrix High School student Allegra Kistler-Ellis
Credit The Kistler-Ellis Family
Loy Norrix High School student Allegra Kistler-Ellis

After graduating from Western Michigan University’s jazz program, Daneman says he realized that most grades schools only had the time and money to teach the basics of jazz.

They weren’t teaching kids how to use those skills or how to develop their own voices as musicians.

“’Well you got to be able to do this before you do anything else.’ But the thing is there’s really no end to that, there’s really no end to musically getting better. Or like virtuosically…you’re not going to be there," he says.

"So it’s like, well, how can we grow in all the areas?”

The program will teach students more about jazz history, improvisation, theory, how to listen and how to work in a group.

By the end of the workshop, students will have split up into bands to perform in a concert at The Union Cabaret & Grille in downtown Kalamazoo on July 2nd. 

Nich Mueller says the idea of the workshop is to get kids thinking about where they can take their art. He says there’s so much more you can do with jazz than just join a band or teach music.

“Make a music video. Try and do a musical poetry collaboration. Try and start talking to other types of artists in different art mediums. Try and do, you know, a visual art—music combination," Mueller suggests. "Thinking creatively is that big item of entrepreneurship that we’re hoping to introduce.” 

At Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo, sophomore Allie Kistler-Ellis plays trombone and piano. She’s in the concert band, the marching band, a percussion group, and an after-school jazz band.

Kistler-Ellis says her love affair with jazz started when she was a middle schooler going to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp near Muskegon. So when she heard her jazz instructor was starting a workshop where students would perform live, she says she was excited to learn more. 

“I know a lot of techniques for soloing and like being able to improv, but doing it itself is much different than knowing how to do it," she says. "So I think just practicing and doing it more in front of people would make it easier.”

Mueller says teens need room to experiment with music and see what works for them. After all, that’s what jazz is all about.

“Really the root of jazz music is expression and kind of finding your own way to have a conversation or present a message to the community in your art," he says. "And that’s one thing that we want to start from the very beginning—is that there is music theory and there’s, you know, how to play your instrument correctly, but along with that you have to think about what you want to say.”

The Summer JazzStart program will be held June 30th through July 2nd. The deadline to apply is May 1st. The program will accept mostly high school students of all music levels.

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