Jazz On Wheels in performance (Anna-Lisa Kirby)
Jazz on Wheels is a time honoured tradition of bringing the music directly to the people where they live. In Winnipeg Jazz on Wheels is produced by Jazz Winnipeg and put together by Steve Kirby, the director of jazz studies at the University of Manitoba.
Steve Kirby tells us how it all works:
The summer of 2011 has been a bit of an odyssey for the students from Hugh John Macdonald Junior High School who were part of the first-ever Bridge program. They've had their first opportunities to perform live all over town with the Jazz on Wheels band, which has put them in front of some solid crowds. Then, in the middle of August, they went to the U of M Jazz Camp, where they worked alongside a hundred kids who are also committed to their craft.
Now, with all that wind in their sails, they're coming back to their neighborhood for the final two Jazz on Wheels performances of the summer. I would imagine that a lot of their friends will be at those shows. I wonder if they'll notice a difference?
Vinh Huynh, the principal at Hugh John, saw them at the Jazz Camp faculty concert in August and said they seem a couple of inches taller now. I know they've grown in other ways: they've been tested, and they've met the challenges head on and with great energy and joy.
These last two Jazz on Wheels events will be interesting because these kids, who were very new to music only a few short months ago, now have some road and academy experience behind them. They're going places!
This particular crew all graduated this spring from Hugh John and are now heading on to various high schools. We're excited for them, but we're sad to see them go. They've committed to keeping their band together, so they should continue to have a vibe and a sound that's uniquely theirs.
It's a bittersweet time. Every year from here forward, at the end of the Jazz on Wheels season, we'll be launching a new set of musicians into the world. Yet, as September rolls around, we'll be meeting a whole new crowd, as a few dozen kids will take on the work and play of music-making. Every year we'll see a small handful of committed musicians emerge from that group, determined to make their mark.
It won't be long now until we start meeting these kids out there in the field, and they'll be old enough, wise enough and professional enough to help guide the Jazz on Wheels band. At that point, we hand over the reins and celebrate because a big dream will be accomplished: Jazz on Wheels will be a band comprised of kids from the neighborhoods it serves, and we'll all have the chance to hear the absolutely unique musical soundprint of this time and this place.
Steve Kirby (Anna-Lisa Kirby)
Middle photo of Steve Kirby with students is courtesy of Charlene Diehl