PHOTOS: Len Katz

Chris Collins, who serves as chair of Jazz Studies at Wayne State University, will be bringing some of Detroit’s finest young jazz musicians to the island to perform for the fifth year in a row at the Mackinac Policy Conference. The show is scheduled for Wednesday, May 31, at the Island House, and promises to once again be a feast for the ears for any and all jazz lovers – and for anyone who simply appreciates good music presented by young people from the city who continues to give the world some of its finest musicians ever.

 The following is from a recent interview with Collins.

A number of years ago I started this initiative to bring awareness of arts and culture and celebrate, in particular, the Detroit area youth and their success by bringing some young artists up to the Grand Hotel during the Mackinac Policy Conference. But starting last year, we have a great partnership now with the Island House, the hotel right on Main Street in front of the island. And we set up a jazz festival stage with sound, lights, and have food and a bar there and we create a jazz night on Wednesday.

This is its own self-standing jazz night and we have professionals from the Detroit Jazz Festival All Stars, along with our youth from the Detroit Public Schools All City Jazz Combo that is selected from students from throughout Detroit Public Schools. And they will be performing individually and also together in a bit of a jam session at the end of each set. We’ll be doing two sets a night and it’s a way of planting the arts and culture flag right in the middle of the Policy Conference week as a way of reminding everyone how important it is to keep arts and culture  – and in this case jazz music, which is so near and dear to the Detroit culture in general – keep it in the forefront of their minds as we all discuss the future and policies and directions of the State of Michigan.

[I started this five years ago], and the first two years I brought up the All City band, and they performed right in the Grand Hotel, right on the porch. And it certainly brought some awareness and gave some of our politicians and policymakers an opportunity to meet some talented Detroit youth. But we thought that maybe there would be a more significant impact and more opportunity for conversations like just presenting a jazz night and bringing some of the professionals up and creating something that allows for people to talk and spend some time at the end of Wednesday night discussing this important issue. And just as important as the arts and culture issue, it’s about sending a strong example to all those who may not be from the Detroit area to give them a first-hand exposure to the wonderful youth of Detroit Public Schools. You know, there’s some …who don’t see that quality and don’t hear and see our students at their best. This is an opportunity to show exactly that.

Every year we try to have a culminating moment at our signature event, and every year I feature a number of high school showcases of some of the outstanding high schools from around our community. But we always have a Detroit Public Schools showcase to celebrate those students right in the back yard of festival and the focus of our Detroit initiative. So the All City band will perform along with a couple select groups from different Detroit Public Schools and their vocal program is featured as well.

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