Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

July/August 2011: Derrick Gardner

U of M Jazz Camp: Ramping Up the Summer Soundtrack

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Every August, sixty or seventy young musicians get together for a really intense week of immersion in the jazz culture at the U of M Summer Jazz Camp. For five solid days, they work hard with peers who also want to explore this art form, and their skills and knowledge are fostered by a network of top-notch faculty and coaches. At the end of the week, they are dramatically better players—and they’ve learned a few things about life in the process.

This year’s headlining faculty are musicians we’re getting to know here in the Jazz Capital. Saxophonist Jimmy Greene and drummer Quincy Davis are fantastic teachers as well as great players. They’re joined by the new trumpet professor, Derrick Gardner. George Colligan comes back for a week before settling into his new home in Portland. Anna-Lisa Kirby will coach the singers, and I’ll gather up the bass players. Add to that list a cadre of talented band directors to coach ensembles and you get the picture—we’re all about supporting the learning process, but we’re equally committed to inspiring young musicians with a vision of what can be accomplished in this art form, and what drives musicians to devote themselves to it.

Jazz is a language, and to really express yourself in a new language, you have to speak it and listen to it until it’s so internalized that you’re no longer thinking about vocabulary or grammar or pronunciation. You’ll spend time on your instrument, and you’ll learn a lot about jazz theory. A good chunk of your effort is spent playing—twice a day you meet with a small ensemble to work on repertoire and put your new skills on the line. If there’s a spark of improviser in you, the Jazz Camp is certain to ignite it! Each ensemble has a coach, and each of the faculty will drop by to clinic you. At the end of the week, your ensemble will play for parents and friends.

Jamming is the other major way jazz musicians master the language. It’s our equivalent to the cocktail party—you mingle with people you don’t normally spend time with, you generate a bit of interesting talk, then move on to other conversations. The Cool Wednesday Night Hang kicks into gear that week. If you have something to say on your horn, get up and join the band for a song.

Thursday night, the faculty performs at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the Jazz on the Rooftop series. Your registration includes a ticket. This is your chance to hear jazz played at a high level—it’s polished and tight, but it’s also inventive and passionate. These musicians have tons of recordings and have toured all over the world—and they deliberately choose to share their passion for jazz with young musicians. It’s partly because they love to teach, but even more that they want others to experience the thrill and richness of this form of artistic expression.

The Summer Jazz Camp is one of the biggest success stories for the U of M odyssey. The proof is in the pudding—right now, there are some fifteen or twenty professional musicians playing all over town who came through the camp. All of them developed skills and confidence through their camp experience, and made connections with other musicians that help define their professional lives.

If you’re a young musician, check us out online, then register for an unforgettable week of hard work and great fun. Or call me—I’ll happily regale you with stories of my Jazz Camp joys over the past eight years!

No matter what, mark that Jazz on the Rooftop concert at the WAG into your calendar—it’s going to be a big celebration of what jazz is! Here’s a bonus: the mosquitoes don’t fly that high..

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