URI offers Saturday morning jazz ensemble workshop to high school students

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Workshop comes on heels of summer jazz camp success

KINGSTON, R.I. – Aug. 28, 2013 – Fall is in the air – and so is jazz.

The University of Rhode Island will offer a 10-week music workshop this fall for high school students from throughout the state with a passion for jazz.

URI decided to host the first-time jazz workshop after the continued success of the University’s summer jazz camp, attended in July by dedicated musicians in grades 8 through 12.

The workshop will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays from Sept. 14 through Nov. 16 at the Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston. Rhode Island-based musicians will lead the sessions: Joe Godfrey, a pianist and graduate of URI’s music department; and Bryan Rizzuto, a bassist. Godfrey also taught at the summer camp.

Many students who attended the summer jazz camp are expected to return for the workshop. Jared Sims, a URI music professor and a saxophone player, says the groups will be small and that the focus will be on playing by ear.

“We think playing jazz by ear is important because jazz, like any other American popular music such as rock, hip hop, reggae, or funk, is meant to be played without fully notated sheet music,” says Sims. “Our students use a combination of music theory and ear-based intuition for their performances.”

Admission to the fall workshop is guaranteed to anyone who has attended URI’s summer jazz camp, which just completed its eighth summer. Others who want to register, including experienced musicians younger than high school students, can contact Sims at 401-874-2765 or jnsims@mail.uri.edu. The fee for the workshop is $325.

Interested students can register at the Community Music Program website: http://www.uri.edu/communitymusic .

“The fall program is unique,” says Sims. “Most public schools are not able to offer supervised jazz combos, and students generally do not get this opportunity. In a small group format, students learn how to play in a group and not rely on sheet music. Students learn how to listen to one another, interact and play with a band that is in sync with one another. We are attracting students who want to have fun and also gain knowledge that they can carry home and use with their friends.”

Students will also get some experience on stage. They’ll open for a public performance of URI’s jazz band later in the fall.

“It will be a wonderful opportunity for the University’s music students to share their jazz experience with the high school musicians,” says Sims. “The excitement of being on a large stage, the audience, the energy of a live performance in front of a big crowd and the sense of accomplishment – it’s all there.”

Nikolas DiGennaro, 14, a guitarist from Portsmouth, had so much fun at the jazz camp this summer he decided to enroll in the fall workshop. “The classes are small, so you learn more,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to the fall. For me, it’s a way to get away and play with people I can relate to. It’s an awesome experience.”

The workshop is sponsored by the University’s Community Music Program, an outreach program of URI’s music department. In addition to summer camps in strings and jazz, the community program also offers individual lessons in most instruments and voice, as well as group classes in piano.

The program’s 4 Hands Together piano class for children ages 4 to 7 introduces them to music, and the adult beginning piano class is for people who have always wanted to play the piano, but think they might be too old to start.

Experienced community program faculty teach the classes, and undergraduate music majors, graduate students and faculty give individual lessons.

For more information about the community program, go to the website or contact Jane Murray, program director, at 401-874-2798.

Pictured above: High school students who attended a jazz camp this summer in the Fine Arts Center at the University of Rhode Island. Photo courtesy of Jane Murray.