How's this for an all-star lineup? The instructors at this week's Great Western Jazz Camp (and some of their noteworthy credits) included:
- Trumpeter Jason Carder (Yanni)
- Saxophonist Paul Brewer (Idina Menzel, Michael Buble)
- Trombonist/pianist Rob Boone (Broadway musicals)
- Flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny (Art Farmer)
- Drummer Chris Wabich (Ludacris, Sting)
- Saxophonist Andrew Gross (Boston Pops, Phoenix Symphony)
- Bassist Ted Sistrunk (Dennis Rowland, Margo Reed)
- Guitarist Stan Sorenson (Nancy Wilson, Jeffrey Osborne)
- Trombonist Vince Wedge (Henry Mancini, Carol Channing)
- Percussionist Homero Ceron (Tucson Symphony)
The sounds of trombones, trumpets, piano, drums and bass fill the halls of the UA's Fred Fox School of Music.
As you approach the door to Room 170, the music gets louder. Upon entering the room, something is different. It's not where the music is coming from, but who it's coming from, that's different. Musicians of all ages, playing a variety of instruments, have assembled as part of the Great Western Jazz Camp.
The camp is the first of its kind in Arizona, bringing in young players from across the state to learn from world-class instructors, all while living in the Manzanita and Mohave residential halls. The lessons include jazz theory, performance skills, improvisation and more. The co-director of the camp, Angelo Versace, hopes that the students also will gain a mentor from the experience.
The camp is the brainchild of a former radio broadcaster, Michael Allen, who played the trombone in middle school, high school and college. He has been operating a camp like this one for the past 10 years in Idaho. When he moved to Tucson and looked to become involved in a jazz camp, he was surprised to find that there wasn't one.
"I have developed a love for the music ever since my teens," Allen said. "I really felt it was necessary to carry on the tradition. My thought at this time is, as the original individuals who have created the music have passed on, it's really important for us to carry on this tradition. So is exposing young people to jazz and providing them an opportunity to learn about it — and most importantly to perform it."
So, three years ago, Allen started hunting for an institution that would host the camp.
Versace, a professor of music and director of jazz studies at the UA, was the connection that Allen needed. Allen told Versace about his interest in creating a jazz camp, and to both of them it seemed natural that the UA — with its strong jazz program — would serve as host. With the Fred Fox School of Music building near residential halls and music faculty willing to participate in instruction, the planning came together. One year later, 32 participants were signed up.
Although mostly high school students are in the camp, five students are 50 and older. One of them is an 83-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who simply wanted to learn more about jazz. Another is Gupta Hoshin, a UA professor in the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, who is learning to play the drums.
The camp will conclude at 7 p.m. Friday with a concert, showcasing what the participants have learned throughout the week. It will take place at Crowder Hall in the Fred Fox School of Music. Prices are $3 for general admission and $1 for students and seniors.
"There's jazz bands in high schools, in colleges — I mean, it's exploded everywhere," Allen said. "That's a good sign. You may not be able to turn the radio on and hear it as you did maybe 40 or 50 years ago, it may not be as in-your-face as it was, but jazz is alive and well."