The Pittsfield Sister City Jazz Ambassadors have concluded another successful season of bringing jazz into the schools of Berkshire County. An embodiment of our ongoing commitment to jazz education, these visits comprise performances, discussion, demonstrations, and even jamming with the students. As documented herein, the Ambassadors bring an unforgettable experience to the schools. The musicians included Andy Kelly, leader (guitar, banjo, vocals, docent); Charlie Tokarz (woodwinds); Matt Cusson (piano, vocals); James Lumsden (bass); Jon Haddad (percussion).
Mount Everett Regional High School, Sheffield. We did a seminar with the school’s jazz ensemble at 7:30 in the morning, which is their rehearsal time! (Too early for musicians, some might say). The young musicians got a lot out of it, and several came to jam with us at our performance, later in the morning. Here is a clip of us practicing with the students.
Abbott Memorial School, Florida, MA. Kindergarden through 8th grade. We played for the entire school in an underground cement gymnasium. They were dancing to the music. The band was interviewed by the school newspaper, and each class wanted to have their pictures taken with the band. They left the show loving jazz music!
New Marlboro Central School. pre K through 6th grade. Marvelous show. High energy. The kids all left feeling like jazz enthusiasts. The young teachers wanted dates with (pianist) Matt Cusson!
Lee Elementary School. The students were the most excited here! The teachers and administrators said that it was their best assembly, EVER!
Farmington River Elementary, Otis. These students don’t get much cultural enrichment, so, they cherished having live music to dance to, to learn the history of jazz, and how jazz works.
Morris Elementary, Lenox. They sent about 200 students to the show. As teachers were passing by in the hall, they were asking, “why didn’t our class get to come and see this great show, too?” That was the principal’s call. He really wants us back so he can have all of the students get to see the program. Huge success!
Clarksburg Elementary and Middle School, in this faraway northwest corner of the state. In addition to the music, we got to answer some great questions about jazz from. The show was lively, and the entire school attended.
We had about 1,700 spectators at the shows this fall. That would include 1,500 students and 200 parents, PTO members, teachers, and administrators. Thank you for the opportunity to offer these performances, and to introduce our young people to jazz music. It is a true gift that they are receiving! The school administrations thanked the Jazz Festival Committee, our sponsors, and the Sister City Jazz Ambassadors profusely!
Feedback from the schools
The schools reacted positively to the Pittsfield Sister City Jazz Ambassadors’ outreach in 2011, part of the extended activities of the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival. Here are some of their responses.
I can’t thank you enough for the wonderful performance by the talented Sister City Jazz Ambassadors. It’s not often that both students and adults alike find a program so totally engaging. Everyone had praise and thoroughly enjoyed it. We all learned quite a bit about the history of jazz while being swept away by your highly entertaining and interactive presentation. We hope to have you back. – Linda Reardon, Principal, Clarksburg School
As an employee at Farmington River Elementary, as well as a parent of an aspiring 4th grade saxophone player, I was very happy to hear of your planned visit to our school. I’m must say that The Sister City Jazz Ambassadors far surpassed expectations!! Your ensemble was absolutely outstanding and not only did you perform an amazing set, your ability to engage the children (and adults!) was truly inspirational. Thank you for all your hard work and your passion for communicating the love of Jazz music to our youngest citizens. I look forward to attending your future concerts. – Ilona Packie
Thank you so much for coming to our school! It was by far the best assembly we have had in many years. The music was outstanding and the children learned so much about jazz. Encouraging the students to get up and dance the Charleston was great way to include movement into the presentation. Your group did an outstanding job introducing their instruments and encouraging children to play music. It was truly an inspirational performance. – Mary Turo, Principal, Farmington River School
We really enjoyed the performance, both kids and teachers! You guys were great and I love the educational aspect of it. We wish you well on the rest of your performances! – Courtney English, Band Director, Southern Berkshire Regional School District