A nonprofit community arts organization has recently opened a Jazz education and performance center where jazz musicians learn, perform, inspire and grow as artists.
On Monday night, the Mesa Community College Jazz band and orchestra, directed by Paul Brewer, took to the stage of The Nash and were joined by trombonist Bob McChesney.
“Spectacular,” was the only word Michelle Oh, a local classically trained singer, could use to describe the venue. “I’m looking forward to what it’s going to become as it grows into a venue for local jazz artists.”
The Nash is a project three years in the making. Members of Jazz in AZ felt Phoenix lacked a jazz music venue that would create performance opportunities for young, aspiring jazz singers and musicians, and cultivate a young jazz audience.
“It’s a beautiful venue,” said Pat Seligman, a member of Jazz in AZ. “It will be well-used. I can just picture all of the wonderful musical events to come.”
Soon after opening, the Nash became the rehearsal space for drummer Lewis Nash, bassist Peter Washington, pianist Renee Rosnes, saxophonist Jimmy Greene and trumpeters Wynton Marsalis and Terell Stafford. All of the men, successful in the jazz industry, were at The Nash to welcome it into the community on April 10.
Modern Drummer magazine called Lewis Nash “jazz’s most valuable player,” and he has recorded music on hundreds of albums. So when it came to naming the new venue, Jazz in AZ couldn’t think of a better man. Marsalis has won nine Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize for his music.
The Nash fosters a range of music from classical to modern jazz. Soon there will be performances by student musicians, local professionals, and touring artists.
The educational programs will include one-on-one private lessons, combo labs, workshops, clinics and master classes, guided listening, jazz in film and jazz camp, said Joel Goldenthal, the executive director of Jazz in AZ. Beginning this fall, young musicians can apply for scholarship programs.
The Nash is currently under construction and is not yet open for regular hours, but is open for special events.
This summer, the Nash will begin its first programs. There will be a weekly jam session where professional and student jazz musicians will come together to play music, giving younger musicians the opportunity to learn from professionals.
There is also no minimum age requirement for these sessions.
“If a 5-year-old showed up who could hang and play jazz, they would absolutely be welcome,” Goldenthal said.
Another program, called “Catch A Rising Star,” will exhibit local rising star musicians. It is an existing program that is being moved from the KERR Cultural Center to the Nash.
The third program featured this summer is workshops for small jazz groups. Jazz in AZ came up with this program in response to schools that only have big band programs.
“The ultimate goal of The Nash is to be the comprehensive resource for the community for everything related to jazz,” Goldenthal said. “We want to serve everyone in the community, from the privileged to the under-served.”
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