June 26, 2012
Filed Under Lake Tahoe Music
It’s a spectacle that draws appreciative stares.
Seven of the country’s top jazz musicians marching down the streets of Truckee with 70 children in their wake, everyone playing “When the Saints Come Marching In.”
Some of the children who don’t have instruments drum on pots and pans donated by Moody’s Bistro & Lounge. The impromptu parade caps off the annual “Jazz Artists in Residence” free Kids’ Camp, hosted by Moody’s, which will take place July 16-20, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The five-day camp is part of the “Jazz Artists in Residence,” which also includes five evenings of free shows by nationally recognized jazz musicians from July 17 – 21, 2012.
Open to children ages 10 years old through high school, the camp allows students to work closely with musicians widely recognized for innovation and talent. Kids are divided into groups to work with a musician who specializes in the musical instrument of their choice.
This year, New York City guitarist/composer Liberty Ellman will instruct the kids on guitar; Grammy-nominated Peter Apfelbaum on piano; Adam Theis, a member of the Shotgun Wedding Quintet, on brass; John Ellis, who has studied under Ellis Marsalis, on saxophone; Josh Jones, the former lead of Hueman Flavor, one of the most acclaimed groups of San Francisco’s jazz movement on drums; and jazz artist Sam Minae on bass. Dublin, who combines the live elements of an MC with the range of a vaudeville performer, also will host a new “Writing, Rhyming and Freestyling” clinic at the kids’ camp this year.
The “lessons” young jazz fans learn during the camp are anything but structured. The musicians avoid what Adam Theis calls a “sterile” way of teaching, abandoning sheet music as the focus and replacing it with a more uninhibited style of learning. An important aspect is letting the kids create without inhibiting their imaginations. They are encouraged to make their own song arrangements and are shown how to do such things as infuse a heavy metal drumbeat into a jazz tune. In this way, the students are encouraged to become writers, composers and arrangers as well as performers.
Last year, jazz musician Peter Apfelbaum taught the younger keyboard players how to play melodica, a cross between a piano and harmonica. “To see the youngest kids come up with the most original orchestrated composition was really beautiful,” Theis recalled. “I think the older students were surprised: ‘Wow they came up with that?’”
It’s hard to say who benefits most from the camp: the kids or the musicians. The jazz artists spend the week playing with their peers while immersing themselves in the historic community of Truckee. Yet, not every musician is suited to become a teacher in the camp.
“For the camp it takes more than just a talented musician,” said JJ Morgan, Co-Owner of Moody’s Bistro & Lounge. “I know plenty of incredible musicians who don’t have the temperament to be the right type of teacher. That is definitely a big part of the equation is selecting these guys. The other part is to have these world class band leaders.”
As a grand finale, the students jam on stage at Moody’s with their jazz artist teachers. When Theis watches the kids perform, it brings back memories of his first show in front of a club audience. “That was a big moment for me,” he said. “So I always think, ‘Wow, I wonder if that night when the kids perform with us changes something for somebody.’ These people in the audience are here because they like jazz, not because they were convinced into going to a school concert.”
Beyond anything, the camp teachers instill a sense of curiosity about music into the children so that they will pursue their musical interest after the camp ends. The method seems to work as many children have been inspired to become musicians. One boy who has attended the camp from its inception was just accepted into the Berklee School of Music in New England. In addition, many parents have told Theis how much the program means to their kids and how they see a difference in their children after the camp. Often, the kids can’t stop talking about what they’ve learned.
The sense of community established during the week expands beyond the camp. Many of the children stay in touch with the musicians, sometimes watching them perform in the Bay Area or contacting them on Facebook for inspiration or ideas.
Moody’s Bistro & Lounge is located inside the historic Truckee Hotel on Commercial Row, and is known for its locally sourced ingredients served in an informal atmosphere reminiscent of Tahoe in the 1920s. The restaurant serves a variety of Contemporary American specialties in a range of affordable price points, as well as a seasonal drink menu made with fresh herbs and fruit. The lounge also is home to live jazz shows by top U.S. and international acts. Moody’s is located a few minutes from Interstate 80 at 10007 Bridge Street in Truckee (on the corner of Commercial Row). For reservations, call (530) 587-8688.