New Orleans drummer Shannon Powell works out with students during WSU Jazz Week, teaching them the nuances of New Orleans-style jazz and blues. PHOTO CREDIT: Alisha Dixon
Wayne State University’s Department of Music hosted its annual J.C. Heard Jazz Week in July. In partnership with the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation, Jazz Week is a free program that brought together forty of the best young musicians from around the state.
Jazz Week participants will perform alongside world-renowned jazz musicians at this year’s Detroit Jazz Festival as part of J.C. Heard All-Star Youth Ensemble. They will also perform with Gregoire Maret and the Inner Voice Ensemble and with the new “Dr. Valade’s Brass Band,” a second line band, headed by Shannon Powell.
While participating in Jazz Week, students worked closely with Wayne State University faculty and this year’s educators-in-residence; drummer Shannon Powell, trumpeter Theo Crocker and vocalist Stephanie Fisher.
Chuck Newsome, education coordinator of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation said, “We’re thrilled to once again have talented jazz musicians join us to coach, mentor and challenge the students to help them perfect their musical skills and confidence performing.”
“Bringing in guest artists to help the students critique their strengths and weaknesses, and provide educational feedback, is really an invaluable aspect of our program,” said Newsome.
Wayne State University’s director of jazz studies and professor Christopher Collins said students selected are among the best young musicians from around the state.
“The students in this program are extremely talented and have the opportunity for unlimited growth in the jazz world. They are selected based on ability and pay nothing to attend,” Collins said.
“It’s about nurturing their musical abilities and helping to keep the legacy of jazz alive. Artistry, excellence, communication and education are tenets of our organization. We are proud to see where the music has taken our alums over the last decade.”
Jazz Week’s collaboration with Wayne State, Collins said has been shaped by Detroit’s rich legacy of jazz.
“Because we are the oldest jazz program in the region, we are fortunate in that we have a long and impressive list of alums that have gone on to have great, successful careers,” Collins said. “The tremendous legacy at Wayne State University and the city of Detroit is attached to the development of creative music.”
Jazz Week participant Trunino Love, a trumpet player and 2016 graduate of the Detroit School of Arts, said he has participated in the program for 3 years because of his love of music and the opportunity to learn from professional musicians.
“I wanted to get more knowledge of the music and I felt like this program would help me and push me to where I need to be. This is one of the art forms that I know everyone’s invited. Its open to any and everybody,” Love said.
“I love jazz because it helps me express myself more. It’s like very open and very free. I can express myself and tell a story that I can’t tell verbally through music.”
The 37th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival, presented by Quicken Loans takes place Labor Day weekend. The 4-day festival’s lineup includes George Benson, Roy Hargrove and the Wayne State University Big Band among others.
“The jazz tradition in Detroit is iconic and known worldwide. Today, it’s a vibrant scene that is constantly evolving and growing and our Festival continues to nurture and support it,” said Gretchen Valade, chair of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation Board of Directors. “With the wonderful Ron Carter as our artist-in-residence, we are taking the music to a new level of Detroit connection. And, once again, we hope the Festival transcends the music itself and gets people downtown to see and experience Detroit’s distinct flavor. We look forward to adding to Detroit’s jazz tradition and another Labor Day weekend to remember.”
Legendary bassist, and Cass Tech graduate, Ron Carter – the most-recorded bassist in music history with more than 2,000 recordings to his credit – is the cornerstone of this year’s lineup and will perform four times throughout the weekend including a nonet, trio, quartet and big band sets.
The Detroit Jazz Festival begins on Friday, Sept. 2, and goes through Labor Day Weekend, ending on Monday, Sept. 5