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Young Lions: Jazz in the Schools 2017

By Chuck Reider

It is a tradition in jazz to call up and coming stars of jazz “young lions” and on Saturday February 11th you will have a chance to meet the young lions of our community.  It is the Reno Jazz Orchestra’s annual Jazz in the Schools, a full day of student jazz performances.  Fifteen middle and high school jazz bands will perform in UNR’s Nightingale Hall starting at 9:00 AM and ending at 5:00 PM.  After they perform, each band moves to the UNR Band Room to receive feedback from two of the top jazz clinicians in the country Paul Harshman and Willie Hill.  That, in itself, is a full day, but there is much more.  Small combos from Wooster, Damonte, and McQueen High Schools will perform in CFA 112 and receive feedback from the UNR jazz faculty.  At high noon the RJO and guest artist Tom Scott will hold an open rehearsal to get students familiar with Tom, a three time Grammy winning saxophonist.  Sunday February 12th at 2PM the RJO will perform a concert with Tom and all the students participating in Jazz in the Schools will receive a free ticket for that concert.  The rest of us have to pay!  But wait there is more.  This year there will also be a three-day class for Washoe County School District teachers to learn more about teaching jazz from the UNR jazz faculty.  Thank you Julye Neel and Kevin Sady of the WCSD for putting that together.

Why is the RJO so committed to this event?  The answer is simple.  Jazz is joyous and we want to share that joy.  Think of jazz founding father Louis Armstrong.  He set the standard that lives on today.  Of course, jazz imparts all the human emotions, but if there is one word to describe jazz I can’t think of a better one than joyous.  The RJO wants to introduce our students to jazz and encourage them to learn it, love it, and create their own brand of jazz.  That is how jazz stays vibrant and alive.  Such folks as Brian Landrus and Sam Minae were “young lions” who grew up here have moved on to very successful jazz careers and I know there are students performing Saturday that will become just as successful as Sam and Brian.  This, to me, is quite exciting.  It is so wonderful to hear these student ensembles perform and hear them grow from year to year. 

Jazz in the School has grown over the years.  In, fact we started it in 2000 with only a school or two and is now up to fifteen.  How did that happen?  Well it takes a champion to grow a program that significantly and the RJO’s champion is Dr. Andy Heglund, UNR Associate Professor and Jazz in the Schools Director.  Assisted by Mike Delage, our education program coordinator, they have organized a great event.  Thanks! 

I have to spend a little time talking about our guest artist this year.  Tom Scott is a true jazz great.  Even if you do not recognize the name you have heard his mastery of the saxophone.  Tom is a three time Grammy award winner who has produced many memorable solo albums and has been a guest artist on over five hundred recordings.  Seen the movies Blade Runner or Taxi Driver?  Then you have heard him.  Do you have Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark?  Guess what, you’ve heard him.  He has recorded with everyone from George Harrison to Frank Sinatra to Whitney Houston.  When Tom and I were working on the program and I was going over songs we have in our library I mentioned Oliver Nelson.  Oliver was a fantastic saxophonist, composer, and arranger who Tom told me got him his first recording contract.  I then mentioned we have some Oliver arrangements he wrote for a Thelonius Monk album.  Tom said, “I am on that album” so we will perform several Oliver Nelson arrangements.  In addition to being a great saxophonist Tom is also a composer/arranger and will be bringing arrangements to his great tunes like Rock Island Rocket and Tom Cat.  All I can say is wow, what a career and what a talent.  I hope you all have a chance to come hear Tom perform with us Sunday, 2PM at UNR’s Nightingale Hall.  This will be special.

None of this would be possible without our sponsors as there is no cost to either the students or the schools to participate in Jazz in the Schools.  UNR has been a generous host allowing the RJO to hold the event in the Church Fine Arts Building.  

To learn more about this annual event, check out the Jazz in the Schools section of our Web site.

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