Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts was one of only two schools nationwide selected by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz to participate in a national “Peer-to-Peer Education” tour. HSPVA opened in Savannah, Ga., on April 11 and continued on to Charleston, Ga., performing in public schools all week.
Seven HSPVA students performed with internationally known jazz saxophone artist Dayna Stephens, Kansas City jazz and blues vocalist Lisa Henry, and renowned jazz educator Dr. J.B. Dyas. They combined performances with educational information in what they refer to as “informances.”
“This is a HUGE honor for our school and district,” HSPVA Director of Jazz Studies Warren Sneed said. “The students are having a great time, and they’re benefiting tremendously from the opportunity to work side-by-side with world-class musicians such as Dayna and Lisa.”
The HSPVA students participating in the Savannah and Charleston tour are trumpeters Nelson Armstrong, 17, and Elijah Micheaux 18; alto saxophonist Armir Lee, 17; guitarist Raven Moran, 16; pianist Sam Reid, 17; bassist Gus Allen, 16; and drummer Jerome Gillespie, Jr., 18.
“Learning Dayna Stephens’ music has really been a challenge and a great learning experience,” Reid said. “We’re playing everything from bebop to contemporary.”
Each school visit included a musical performance for all students followed by workshops with each school’s jazz band and choir.
“We’ve found that sometimes young people can learn about things better from kids their own age, and one of them is jazz,” Monk Institute Chairman Herbie Hancock said.
The students gathered to talk about jazz – why it is important to America, and how a jazz ensemble represents a perfect democracy. They also discussed American values that jazz represents: teamwork, ethnic diversity, finding a passion early in life, being persistent, and believing in yourself.
Immediately following the informances, Stephens, Henry, and Dyas conducted jazz workshops for each host school’s jazz band and choir where they learned from one another not unlike Thelonious Monk did with his fellow musicians during the bebop era some 60 years ago.
“Congratulations once again on being one of only two high school jazz combos nationwide to receive this all-expense-paid prestigious and educative trip,” said J.B. Dyas, vice president of education and curriculum development at the Monk Institute.
The weeklong tour concludes with two public shows on April 15 at Charleston’s premier jazz club, the Mezz (276 King St.). More information can be found by calling 843-853-4515 or visiting www.mezzdowntown.com.