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Jazz on Wheels: Into the Neighbourhoods!

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Jazz on Wheels, Winnipeg’s jazz-based street party band, is back and rolling through inner-city festivals and outdoor parties throughout Winnipeg this summer. As always, the group is a mix of professional musicians and young apprentices—the energy is infectious and the music is lively. This is my first year as leader, and I’m excited!

Throughout the school year, I direct the Bridge: Music for Life program at Hugh John Macdonald School. It’s a unique program offering music instruction to junior high students, many of them new Canadians. Because we often don’t all speak the same language, we learn music by ear, focusing on rhythm and playing in time together. The repertoire is familiar, the results astounding.

I see Jazz on Wheels as a performance academy for the most eager and motivated students in the Bridge program. Performing for an audience is an amazing way to generate enthusiasm in young musicians, and JOW will be the perfect vehicle (pardon the pun) for Bridge students to experience that thrill over the summer.

Jazz on Wheels has always brought student musicians together with mentoring professionals. This year we have a number of Winnipeg’s top-tier professional musicians on board, including Todd Martin, my partner at the Bridge and front man for the Dirty Catfish Brass Band. As well as the professionals and the current HJM students, we’re inviting several graduates of the Bridge program back to perform with us and mentor our current students, fulfilling a long-time dream of mine. I’ve always told students they’re in the band for life, so I love the idea of bringing in some of my stars from years past to round out an exciting and diverse ensemble.

As dig! goes to press, we’re still finalizing performance dates. We do know that Jazz on Wheels will be performing on July 29 for the opening of the Canada Summer Games. We are also slated to perform for the Sherbrook Street Festival, CSI’s Summer Learning program, and the Daniel McIntyre Community Association. And we finish our season on September 6 at the Rossbrook House Street Festival. Check the dig! website, or follow me on Twitter, @nwatsonsax, and I’ll pass along the details as they’re finalized.

With a high-energy set list, including songs by Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Elton John, and Justin Timberlake, and a talented cast of professional and student musicians, Jazz on Wheels is a party in the making! Be sure to check us out when we roll into your community this summer.

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