As summertime heats up, the Jazz on Wheels band is getting ready for another season. Since 2006, this playful group of high-level musicians has been rolling into schoolyards and street fairs, bringing live music to neighbourhoods that rarely have that pleasure.
Since the start, Steve Kirby’s dream for Jazz on Wheels is that it be made up of musicians from these neighbourhoods, and every year he inches closer to that goal. For the past four years, audiences have seen talented young musicians from the Bridge program at Hugh John Macdonald tucked in amongst the pros. Last year, the circle was widened to include a handful of middle school kids from Sister MacNamara and Ryerson, members of the first ever CanU Jazz experience at the U of M.
The Jazz on Wheels band is truly beginning to reflect the diverse neighbourhoods it visits. Audiences are thrilled—these kids, some as young as 11 and most within a year of picking up an instrument, are owning the stage, playing and singing to huge crowds, proudly sharing their skills and their joy in making music.
It takes courage and determination for anybody to stand in front of a crowd and perform. All of these kids have to master their nerves and focus on the task, and that requires careful preparation. Last year, Steve initiated the Jazz on Wheels Academy, an intensive musical experience that helped eight young musicians get ready to perform with the Jazz on Wheels band. They worked up close with mentors to master their parts—and they in turn helped their mentors perfect a few tunes from their own playlists.
We’re happy to report that the Jazz on Wheels Academy is back for a second year. In late July, ten energetic young musicians, grade five through nine, will spend several hours with gifted mentors, working on repertoire and improving their technical skills. Then they’ll be invited onto the big flatbed truck as part of this year’s Jazz on Wheels band, to play their hearts out and inspire their listeners to dream of making music too.
The band’s first stop? The field day for the CSI summer learning institute, where hundreds (and hundreds) of sun-soaked pre-teens will pause for half an hour to clap and dance and be amazed that their peers can make such great music. Watch for the announcement, then drop by and be amazed too!