For aspiring musicians, learning one-on-one from famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I know that phrase is overused,” said Dr. Joe Allison, director of bands at Eastern Kentucky University.
Still, he said, there is no other way to describe the opportunity presented to the top high school band members from across the state.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Marsalis, will perform today at 8 p.m. at EKU’s Center for the Arts and, prior to the concert, Marsalis will lead a trumpet master class. The class is part of the EKU high school band clinic, but the public is invited.
When Center for the Arts Director Debra Hoskins spoke to Allison about the possibility of Marsalis and the entire Lincoln Center orchestra working with students, he thought she was joking.
“We were thrilled about it,” Allison said.
Twelve George Rogers Clark High School students will participate in the band clinic, which began Thursday evening with auditions for EKU¿music faculty. After the audition process, the students are placed in one of four honor bands that will perform at 6 p.m. today at EKU’s Brock Auditorium. Students must be recommended by their band instructors, and each school can send up to 20 percent of students enrolled in band.
“They’re very excited to work with them,”¿Chris Yoo, GRC band instructor said.
Band students are encouraged to participate in honor bands because it’s a good opportunity to not only learn more about their respective instruments, but also gain information about different college programs.
“The students get to see college campuses. It helps them make college decisions,” Yoo said.
The professional musicians will demonstrate good technique and basic fundamentals for the students, and a few students will perform for them during the workshop.
“They (Jazz at Lincoln Center) are one of the best in the world. It’s nice that they’re coming to this area. It’s something our kids aren’t normally exposed to,”¿Yoo said.
Yoo said he likes to send students to different clinics every year, so they can learn more about Kentucky’s colleges and universities, but when he learned about the orchestra coming to EKU he “jumped on the opportunity” to participate.
“We’ll go to a different one next year, but this was a no-brainer,” Yoo said.
Most GRC¿senior band members will continue playing in some form during college, even if they don’t major in music or join school orchestras. The honor band clinics allow students to learn more about the musical opportunities at the school, and some students may even audition for scholarships.
“I hope they get a lot of things out of it,” Yoo said. “I hope they get some inspiration to perform better, inspired to see what else is out there, and kind of open their eyes to something new.”
The clinic also will be a learning experience for instructors like Yoo and Allison.
“It’s as thrilling to those of us who are professionals as it is to the kids. It’s not every day you get to rub shoulders with professionals like this,” Allison said.
The concert will be particularly meaningful for the Clark County band program this year. The students’ performance will be dedicated to Chuck Campbell, former GRC¿band director who died in July, and the concert will highlight songs that were special to Campbell during his career. The concert will be conducted by musicians mentored by Campbell.
“He had an amazing program those years he was at GRC,”¿Allison said.
Even for students who never pursue music after high school, Allison said the clinic is still a special experience.
“I hope they have really fun memories of the experience, because that’s the kind of thing you tend to remember for a long time,” Allison said.
Tickets still are available for the master class today from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and the Lincoln Center concert. For more information, visit www.ekucenter.com or call the box office at (859) 622-7469.
Contact Rachel Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter, @ParsonsRachel.