Students add to the gumbo of jazz

Students add to the gumbo of jazz


Recruitment is open for the fourth season of the Northwest Arkansas Jazz All-Stars Youth Ensemble. The 18-piece jazz big band brings together high school musicians from regional schools for an ensemble that will enhance their artistic development and provide distinguished performance opportunities.

“You aren’t treated as a student, but rather as a real musician,” baritone and tenor saxophone player Ian Taylor says of the experience. As an ensemble that meets only once a week for a 10-week period, there is more responsibility on the musicians to learn their parts and be prepared than compared to a school setting, Taylor shares.

“While these qualities might scare some, I thoroughly enjoy the additional respect and professionalism afforded to me by the All-Star band. I definitely feel more comfortable working in a professional environment after my experience with them.”

Taylor participated in the All-Stars last year and is looking forward to auditioning for a return spot in the ensemble’s fourth year. The selective group is an initiative by the Fayetteville Jazz Collective formed in an effort to advance the creative spirit and appreciation of jazz arts. On Feb. 1 and 2, the Collective will audition the next group of hopeful musicians to fill the band. There they will learn techniques, styling and other skills in jazz from professional local musicians. The program culminates in a public performance at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville and a professional studio recording experience.

“We’ve had kids from Centerton/Bentonville playing jazz with kids from Fayetteville/Greenwood, which is, what, 40 miles apart? You start to meet other people who aren’t in your own little circle, which is literally the idea of jazz,” muses Matthew Beach. Beach is a member of the Fayetteville Jazz Collective and has been an instructor and aid with the All-Stars since the beginning. This year, the trombonist takes his turn as the conductor of the ensemble.

“Jazz is like gumbo,” Beach continues, paraphrasing Wynton Marsalis in Ken Burns’ documentary on the genre. “It’s the American experience put together in one pot, and everybody stirs in their thing. That’s the idea — we’re building that. It just happens to come with playing music. Not everybody’s got the same mindset on how to do things, but that’s what the real world is. You get together, and you still find that you can make music with these people.”

“As I found jazz, a passion for music which I had not previously felt was ignited, and I soon realized how I could shape both my tone and technique to embody my personal feelings better than any other medium,” Taylor reveals. “If I were to pursue classical bari sax, I would be given a clear-cut part to play, which would usually relegate me to lower, less important roles in the piece. Jazz bands, however, due to their small size and ample soloing opportunity, allow me to express myself regardless of horn choice.”

“When you take that leap into doing something that you love [outside of school], to get into a group to play music with people that have auditioned to be in that same group, instantly, there’s that camaraderie of, ‘We’ve all auditioned to be here. And we want to work hard and make this music the best we can,’” Beach adds. “That’s more than just a music trait. That will help you in the real world.”



• Registration is open for the fourth NWA Jazz All-Stars Youth Ensemble through Jan. 26

• Auditions are Feb. 1 & 2

• Open to music students grades 9-12 who play saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar, piano, bass or drums

INFO — 225-2306,

Categories: Music