Discussions of sixteenths, scales, and solos rang through the rooms of Kenan Music Hall during the 2017 UNC Summer Jazz Workshop, led by music professor Stephen Anderson. Those who attended were of a variety of ages, skill levels, and backgrounds — a true testament to the universal language of music.
Some students were involved in theory and improvisation courses, while others focused on jazz history, many receiving college credit during the five-day event. All participants had the opportunity to enjoy evening concerts performed by talented guests, professors, and peers. Some of the same students return each year, sure to receive a unique experience each time — that’s the beauty of jazz.
Rising junior Lizzie Fryer is still deciding what her academic path will be. With no formal jazz training under her belt, the UNC student came to the workshop to learn more about the music style.
Gregg Gelb helps his students fine-tune their set before the final showcase. Gelb is recognized with numerous awards and accomplishments: recipient of Jazz Composers Awards from the North Carolina Arts Council, founder and director of the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Society, and member of several musical groups, to name a few.
Lydia Kiefer, a high school counselor, has classical voice and violin training. In reflecting on the jazz workshop, she is surprised by the freedom associated with the style. “A lot of that freedom moves beyond music into other aspects of my life,” she says.
Will Sneider, a rising junior high school junior, listens attentively in order to accompany his fellow musicians. “I’m trying to remember,” Sneider says. “It goes, *bom bom tsst tt tsst*.” He plays this, recalling learned rhythms from former jam sessions.
Tyrone Williamson, a junior at Athens Drive High School, practices alongside the other brass players in his combo before the student showcase. Williamson is used to practicing solo and was most excited about the chance to perform in front of a crowd.
Ella Eckles, a high school sophomore from Denton, Texas, lives and breathes jazz. Her father is the bass director at the jazz workshop. “Music is present all the time,” she says. “Part of my home life is having jazz play on the radio all the time.”
Eric Meyer strums his base as high school junior Will Sneider drums away. His third year attending the workshop, Meyer regularly plays jazz gigs in and around the community. He appreciates that the younger musicians, “kick him in the butt,” he says. Meyer and Sneider laugh about the 13-year-old piano player in their combo whose talent is well beyond his years.
Orko Sen begins practicing for the final student showcase, while his fellow combo members file into the Kenan Music Building. There were a total of 14 combos in the workshop, each made up of number of different instruments, age groups, and musical backgrounds.
Tim Rinehart may not be center stage as a bass player, but he knows that he has one of the most important roles while playing with others — keeping the baseline consistent. Rinehart also plays piano to help develop his comprehensive understanding of theory, which is key to being a successful jazz musician.
Many students used short breaks between sessions to practice their improvisation skills — the main focus for many attending the workshop, as an understanding of music and jazz theory is key. Professors Stephen Anderson and Jim Ketch masterfully led the jazz theory and jazz improvisation courses at the workshop.
At the Thursday evening concert, featured vocalist Kathy Gelb accompanied the North Carolina Jazz Reparatory Orchestra, along with the workshop director, Jim Ketch. During the concert, Gelb remarks that the students are lucky to see such great musicians in action. Students were exposed to an exceptional number of internationally renowned teachers and guests throughout the workshop.