Celebrating and Promoting Music Education
By Khalid Moss
Beavercreek, Ohio is a medium-sized mid-western town, incorporated in 1980, that boasts a population of more than 37 thousand hardworking folks. Like most cities, times are tough. Voters routinely reject school levies and additional budget cuts have already been announced as a way of preparing for the March 6, 2012 levy. But there is an event taking place the first weekend in March that has the residents of Beavercreek far more upbeat. It’s the 12th annual Weekend of Jazz, “Where the Future of Jazz Music Meets the Legends of Jazz,” at Beavercreek High School Alumni Auditorium 2660, Dayton-Xenia Road.
It’s an apt title. While you wouldn’t normally think of Beavercreek as a hotbed of jazz music, the town will undergo a virtual invasion of musicians who either have a keen interest in or perform professionally what has been called America’s only original art form.
The kickoff for the Weekend of Jazz (WOJ) is 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1 in the auditorium. Presented by the Beavercreek Music Parents Association (BMPA), Beavercreek High School and the Dayton City Paper, Thursday’s event features performances by the jazz bands of Beavercreek Schools — Ankeney and Ferguson Middle Schools and Beavercreek High School Jazz Ensembles 1 and 2. Jazz professionals will be judging the performances – from onstage — and will evaluate, analyze and critically assess each performance. Past professionals have included members of the Count Basie Orchestra, trumpeter John Faddis, famed bassist Stanley Clarke, John Fedchock, Five Play, Tito Puente Jr., Jon Secada and many others.
The festival is the brainchild of Douglas McCullough, Director of Bands at Beavercreek, in response to a challenge by the Superintendent of Schools. In 2006 the Mayor of Beavercreek proclaimed the first weekend in March, Beavercreek Jazz Weekend. Jeff Weir is current director of WOJ, and Dan Archibald, former director (from 2005 to 2009) now promotes the event. He explained how various artists from around the nation are chosen to perform:
“Often we — Doug, Jeff and I — receive mailers or e-mails about the availability of tour jazz artists and I pursue those leads through their booking agents,” he said. “Sometimes we book that artist, as with the Buddy Rich Band, but sometimes we are directed to another artist in that agent’s ‘stable.’ Other times we get referrals from other WOJ artists for musicians that might be good for the festival. We landed Jon Secada last year. Tito Puente Jr. (WOJ, 2010) and Jon are friends, and Tito recommended him to make that connection. Sometimes one of us, or even Doug’s students, has a connection we can use. Doug and the leader of Sylvan Street have been friends since college and collaborated for years on the BHS marching band show.”
The national touring bands performing at the festival this year are Sylvan Street and the Buddy Rich Big Band. Bassist Jay Rees heads up Sylvan Street – a seven-piece horn band a la Chicago. He formed Sylvan Street in 2008 to perform his collection of original jazz music, and has also performed with notable jazz artists such as Jimmy Cobb, Lenny White, Paul Horn and Randy Sandke. Rees toured with the international recording group The Lettermen as bassist and music director, and is featured on their new release, Now and Then. Sylvan Street’s rich diversity blends seamlessly to create a sound that is swinging, rocking, grooving, sultry and soulful. “[The album] Here in America, has Latin and some elements of pop, but what you remember most is a big, fat band sound, full of muscular energy devouring silence with its massive appetite,” said Chuck Graham of the Arizona Daily Star.
Bernard “Buddy” Rich was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1917 and died April 2, 1987. He was an American jazz drummer and bandleader. Rich was billed as “the world’s greatest drummer” and was known for his virtuosic technique, power, groove and speed. Since his passing, the band lives on and now Rich’s daughter Cathy is caretaker of his ongoing legacy. The Chicago-based band continues to tour nationally and internationally, ensuring that Rich remains an American icon. When asked about Buddy’s legacy, Cathy sounded slightly taken aback: “Do you even know who he is?” she asked “I’m not sure how to answer that question. His legacy is left in every drummer that has picked up a pair of sticks. He was the best ever to play the instrument. Period. The current band is the same size as Buddy’s bands always was. Fifteen pieces.”
Cathy was uncomfortable being described as “the leader” of the band.
“I don’t look at myself that way,” she said. “I have been preserving his legacy since 1987 when he left us. If you check you will see all the memorial concerts that I have produced since 1988.”
The schedule for the Weekend of Jazz is as follows: Thursday, March 1 at 7p.m. Beavercreek Band Night showcases free concerts at Beavercreek Schools Ankeney Middle School, Ferguson Middle School and Beavercreek High School.
Sylvan Street plays Friday, March 2 at 8p.m. Tickets for adults are $30, seniors $25 and students $20.
The High School Band day free concert master class starts Saturday, March 3, at approximately 8:30a.m. and The Buddy Rich Band plays on the evening of Saturday, March 3 at 8:30p.m. Tickets for adults are $30, and for seniors and students are $25.
The Weekend of Jazz is a fun, family-friendly event that promotes music education and serves as a vehicle for the perpetuation of jazz in middle schools, junior and senior high schools from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. WOJ promoter Archibald appreciates the impact the event has had on the community.
“It’s an opportunity for students to play and learn in a non-competitive environment,” he said. “It gives students the opportunity to cut loose. That’s what jazz is about. Cutting loose!”
Contact DCP freelance writer Khalid Moss at KhalidMoss@DaytonCityPaper.com