All that jazz: Assemblies brings jazz to students

Members of the University of Hartford School of Music who are part of the Jackie McLean Jazz Studies Assembly performed for the students at Chippens Hill Middle School last Tuesday. (Janelle Morelli)



The students in Bristol got all jazzed up last week.

On March 25 and 26, alumni and students from the Jackie McLean Jazz Studies Department at the University of Hartford hosted an assembly program at all middle and high schools across the City of Bristol.

The Newport Jazz Assembly Program is a performance series that brings music to elementary schools throughout Rhode Island that was recently expanded into Connecticut, according to the website, The Newport Festivals Foundation’s goal is “to expand the impact of our festivals by supporting music education programs year-round, across the country.”

“I think it’s really important to get young people who are starting to play instruments interested in jazz – jazz is the only American art form, it was born right here in this country,” said Josh Bruneau, trumpet player and a Jackie McLean Institute alumni. “ I think it’s really important for the youth to hear about these people – Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington – to get them excited about it.”

“I am hoping that they [students] take away how much fun music is, and how much meaning and emotion it can bring into their lives,” said Lisa Ladone, one of three music teachers at Chippens Hill Middle School, where the McLean group wrapped up its circuit in Bristol schools.

Drummer Kirk Woodard was asked to sign autographs after the performance.

Bruneau was joined by Matt Dwonszyk, a Jackie McLean Institute alumni playing the upright bass, and current students Sarah Hanahan (saxophone), Jeremy Galloway (guitar), David Winters (piano), and Kirk Woodard (drums), who is in his first year of the masters program.

The ensemble brought students through the history of jazz by playing renditions of “When the Saints go Marching In” in a New Orleans street-beat style; “It Don’t Mean a Thing If it Ain’t Got that Swing” composed by Duke Ellington; “A Night in Tunisia” composed by Dizzy Gillespie; and “Moanin’,” by Bobby Timmons.

Hanahan, a senior in the Jackie McLean Institute said she hopes “the younger generation carries the torch and gets inspired by what we’re doing because I’m inspired by the people above me.”

One of Ladone’s students, A.J. Capozzi, a sixth grader who plays the saxophone, said watching the assembly inspired him to play his instrument more.

Bruneau said he was inspired to keep practicing the trumpet when Lester Bowie, a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago performed at his middle school.

Woodard said, “For me, seeing older musicians play, that’s how I got inspired and that’s why I wanted to do it, so hopefully it does the same for them.”

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