Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

September/October 2011: Babs Asper

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

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The summer of 2011 has been a bit of an odyssey for the students from Hugh John Macdonald who were part of the first-ever Bridge program. They’ve had their first opportunities to perform live all over town with the Jazz on Wheels band, which has put them in front of lots of people. Then, in the middle of August, they went to the U of M Jazz Camp, where they worked alongside a hundred kids who are also committed to their instruments, and to practicing and performing.

Now, with all that wind in their sails, they’re coming back to their neighborhood for the final two Jazz on Wheels performances of the summer—on the last day of August at Rossbrook House and on September 10 at the Sherbrook Street Festival. Probably a lot of their friends will be at those shows. I wonder if they’ll notice a difference…

Vinh Huynh, the principal at Hugh John, saw them at the Jazz Camp faculty concert in August and said they seem a couple of inches taller now. I know they’ve grown in other ways—they’ve been tested, and they’ve met the challenges head on and with great energy and joy. These last two Jazz on Wheels events will be interesting because now these kids who were very new to music a few short months ago have some road experience and some academy experience behind them. They’re going places!

This particular crew all graduated this spring from Hugh John so are heading on to various high schools. We’re excited for them, and we’re sad to see them go. They’ve committed to keeping their band together, and well they should—they have a vibe and a sound that’s uniquely theirs.

It’s a bittersweet time. Every year from here forward, at the end of the Jazz on Wheels season we’ll be launching a new set of musicians into the world. Still, as September rolls around, we’ll be meeting a whole new crowd of a few dozen kids who will take on the work and play of music-making, and every year we’ll see a small handful of committed musicians emerge from that group, determined to make their mark.

It won’t be long now until we start meeting these kids out there in the field, and they’ll be old enough and wise enough and professional enough to be the Jazz on Wheels band. At that point, we hand over the reins and celebrate because a big dream will be accomplished: Jazz on Wheels will be a band comprised of kids from the neighborhoods it serves, and we’ll all have the chance to hear the absolutely unique musical soundprint of this time and this place.

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