“I think they were all kind of stunned,” explained Dr. John Reynolds, who is the music department chair at the School of Creative and Performing Arts, a small Title 1 program in Paradise Hills, after informing his students that they would be opening the show for nine-time Grammy Award–winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis at the Balboa Theatre on October 6.
“They’re humbled and honored…a little nervous and excited,” Reynolds related to the Reader on a Skype call from his office at the South Bay high school. How did this opportunity come about? “I got a call from Todd Stoll, who’s the director of jazz education for Jazz at the Lincoln Center about a week and a half ago. I had to confirm a few details, and then I sent out a group email to the kids. I think this is a new initiative for [Lincoln Center]. They are trying to highlight the successful jazz programs when they are on tour, so it’s a way to bring recognition to what we’ve been able to accomplish at the school, and it’s also a way for them to expand their outreach and their mission.
“The school itself has been around for a while, but until I got there [Reynolds arrived four years ago] the jazz program wasn’t really formalized — it used to be a kind ‘after school club.’ In each successive year we’ve worked to refine what a successful jazz program would look like on the high school level.
- Thursday, October 6, 2016, 8 p.m.
868 Fourth Avenue,
$30 - $99
“I think the primary thing is that I have really high expectations for the kids. The first few years they didn’t really believe in themselves in terms of their ability to perform at a high level. A large number don’t take private lessons because it’s cost prohibitive. Many of our kids come from pretty tough backgrounds. A lot of the success was just putting the infrastructure in place to allow opportunities to explore jazz as a creative medium during the school day and making it a serious thing. And I’ve tried really hard to secure help from the local jazz community. Gilbert Castellanos has been involved and Ian Tordella has helped out with the saxes. Marshall Hawkins has been down a few times in the past year. We’re just trying to teach kids about what I believe is the true American art form.”
The October 6 concert will feature a 22-piece band that combines a few recent graduates with current students. “It’s been a real privilege to work with these kids,” Reynolds concluded. “If anything, every year I’m learning more from them than they are from me. It’s a wonderful experience as an educator watching them develop and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”