Litchfield organization a great partner
As the group's intense, sometimes knotty music filled WestConn's Ives Hall, the students listened. Really listened. And when the time came to applaud at the end of solos or songs, they didn't just clap. They cheered.
"This is the whole thing,'' said Dan Goble, WestConn's director of jazz studies. "It's our responsibility to keep the music alive.''
Working with Litchfield Performing Arts and the Education Connection, the festival - in its 10th year - has become both a showplace for some of the best performers in jazz, and an intense, three-day workshop for young musicians-to-be.
The combination of WestConn and Litchfield Performing Arts has proved to be a good one. The Litchfield organization - which puts on both the annual Litchfield Jazz Festival and a summer jazz school - has a roster of top-flight jazz performers and educators on its roster. WestConn has the performance space to serve students from all over the state.
"It's elevated the level of training we're bringing to the students,'' said Vita Muirexecutive director of Litchfield Performing Arts.
This year's festival will let students hear jazz in a variety of settings. Last night, the festival faculty - including saxophonist Don Braden, trombonist Conrad Herwig, guitarist Mark Whitfield and bassist John Benitez - took the stage at Ives Hall for an easy-going jam session.
"These guys just get together and play,'' Goble said.
Tonight, the students will hear one of the best groups in jazz - tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano's Nonet. Tomorrow, the day will be filled with performances by high school and college ensembles. It will finish at 7 p.m. with Herwig leading the WestConn Jazz Orchestra.
Muir said what she and Goble emphasize is teaching and performing throughout the three days, not artificial competition and rewards.
"A lot of student jazz festivals are about winning trophies,'' Muir said. "The kids play and at the end, they give somebody a trophy. But Dan and I both have very non-competitive sensibilities. We do this wonderful teaching program - the kids get to play with their teachers, with each other. Then we award some of the outstanding students by letting them play onstage Saturday night.''
Muir said in the future, she and Goble hope to expand the festival by a day, as well as adding musicians to teach Latin jazz and jazz vocals.
Which means a lot more playing. And listening.
"In the 1960s and 1970s, you'd have students going to New York City to listen to the Philharmonic and learn about classical music,'' Goble said. "That's what we're doing here. It's the same thing. We're not just building future musicians. We're building the future audience for jazz.''