Jazz House Kids in Montclair, NJ

Melissa Walker, a really wonderful jazz singer and wife to Grammy-Winning Bassist Christian McBride, started an after-school jazz music program called Jazz House Kids. They’ve grown to have their own 3-room classroom and playing space. Their big band has won awards and these kids are as excited about playing jazz as 6 year olds at recess on the playground.

This is Melissa’s dream baby coming of age and starting to walk and run. It boggles my mind and drops my jaw. They have community business partners/sponsors who come to benefits and fundraiser concerts to clap loud and write checks to fund this wonderful school. They know it enriches their community when their own youngsters are learning and participating in healthy wholesome life-enriching activities that will benefit them as moms and dads and families and neighbors of these smart productive and SENSITIVE new minds.

The Arts are the workshops of sensitivity training and re/creation and re/creative activities that make joy and high morale.

We’re wired that way. After the joy and fun that a person/child feels of running and tumbling, something else more mature gets satisfied by making—creating something that comes from inside of oneself that wasn’t there before. Athletes do it in making a great play. And fourth graders do it when painting the winter-scape with grey skies and snow on bare branch trees, then out to recess, and skipping rope 100 times without tripping the rope.

Anyway, Christian and I did a combination afternoon rehearsal/master class with questions from Christian and the audience of students and teachers, and community colleagues and friends. There was a creative new twist that was so much fun for everybody—Me too! To questions about my music education, I responded about my classroom instruction being the church and my living room (where my older brothers sang very complex vocal quartet music), my school choir, high school, ¬¬jazz trio with vocalist situations. That is an example of very loose performance based learning situations. On the job training, etc. etc. In fact, as I think back, I always had a difficult time doing any kind of formal music study (my mother taught piano, not me). Perhaps because I’d gotten a bit spoiled with performing by second nature and therefore perhaps not wanting to be a beginning student.

As far as the afternoon’s banter, amazingly, we took the same approach that evening with the concert. Play some music and then chat back and forth. David Sanborn and I have shared the stage real often in our careers. We also shared “The Dream” and an era of music that was and is iconic in every important respect of art and culture. We could have talked all night. It’s good there was a time limit or we wouldn’t have heard the big band and Christian, which was, in fact, the main attraction, the reason why people came.

This whole approach was a spark of creative brilliance that put the oh-so-important donors and sponsors right in the middle of the process, to see the goals and results of their contributions. I think they got it, and will keep on helping to make the dream come true. You cannot miss or deny the sight of kids who are in school and motivated and happy and doing well in the three R’s, and who will very likely go on to college.

For me, the magical dream keeps unfolding with new records and new tours and new inspirations like this. I’ll return again if I’m asked, and in the meantime, I’ll admire that tenacious

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