Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

September/October 2012: The Bad Plus

Jazz Italiana

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I’ve mentioned before that Winnipeg is beginning to gain a reputation amongst the world’s jazz community. We’ve had the opportunity to share our investment in this art form with a lot of high-powered visiting artists over the past nine years. Now, members of our jazz faculty are regularly invited to tour in North America, Europe, and Asia, and our graduates are performing and studying far and wide. This new column will offer periodic glimpses of our connections with jazz elsewhere.

One of the highlights of my career as a jazz educator took place this summer at the Orsara Jazz Camp in Italy. Anna-Lisa and I were both part of their summer faculty, and we enjoyed working shoulder to shoulder with great teachers from Italy and the US.

Several things really impressed me. The first is that Italians are very invested and extremely accomplished in this music—it’s something we sometimes forget here in North America because of the way jazz is represented in our society. The students I encountered had made a huge effort to learn the music, and they showed a great willingness to be taught. They’re hungry!

Then there was the talent piece. We worked with some really gifted musicians—singers, piano players, saxophone players. I’d love to have some of those players in our program here. They were willing to make significant sacrifices to learn too. One woman quit being a lawyer so she could play the bass—their sense of the value of art and music is extraordinary!

We took Winnipeg to Orsara too. Dr Judy Kehler Siebert, Carter Graham, and Joanna Majoko attended the camp, and they all made a big impact. You can hear their training, and the hours they’re investing in perfecting their craft. Joanna was selected as one of the top two vocalists in an incredibly gifted field, and has won a weeklong engagement in Bologna late next spring. What an extraordinary opportunity!

The people who run the Orsara jazz camp are interested in pursuing an on-going partnership with the University of Manitoba—I’m really pleased about that. We’re exploring ways to share information as well as students and professors, perhaps even some joint recording initiatives. Having experienced their enthusiasm and commitment firsthand, I see a lot of potential in this connection.

Italy, anyone?!

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