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  • Donny Thompson, M.S., NPA

Introducing JOI's Mentors! (1 of 3)

Happy New Year to all of our supporters! We have some truly exciting things planned for 2021 and you'll have a front seat to all of it including more from the newly launched JOI Jazz Orchestra comprised of our professional musicians who work with the Las Vegas Youth Jazz Orchestra, new recordings from the LVYJO, Band Director Academy in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center, and more... in addition to our ongoing highly acclaimed educational and outreach programs. Yes, we're staying busy! CHECK OUT THIS PREMIER OF THE JOI JAZZ ORCHESTRA PERFORMING SHERMAN IRBY'S ARRANGEMENT OF "MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY" WITH VOCALIST AND JOI BOARD MEMBER, CLINT HOLMES!

Over the next few days, I'll be introducing the JOI LVYJO Mentors who are 100% volunteer. All are professional musicians and many have played on stages worldwide and here at home with some of history's greatest legends during the heyday of Vegas showrooms through today.

All of us at JOI express our deepest gratitude to these outstanding members of the local community who offer their passion and expertise to our students and who in turn, "Make A Difference" in their lives and the community we serve.

Summer Kodama – Bass, Jazz Language instructor

Summer Kodama is a bassist and composer currently based in Montreal.

Raised in Las Vegas, Kodama was an active member of the jazz and commercial music scene, performing in a number of popular production shows and residencies on the Strip such as Steve Wynn's Showstoppers and with Post-Modern Jukebox

When not performing, Kodama spends her time developing an already recognizable voice as both a composer and player. Her compositions showcase risk taking improvisations; to play with her requires embracing the unexpected. Foil to her fearlessness is a genuine desire to connect with audience members in terms they can relate to. Her compelling writing ensures that listeners leave with lasting impressions of new sonic worlds.

Summer recently completed her Master’s degree at McGill University for Jazz and Composition. Some of her recent residencies and distinctions include:

-2020 BMI Jazz Composers Workshop participant

-2020 Downbeat award for outstanding original composition in the graduate large ensemble category

-2019/2020 Composer-in-Residence for McGill Chamber Jazz ensemble

-2019 Jazz and Creative Music workshop residency at the Banff Centre

-2019 Jazz Education Network's Sisters in Jazz quintet

-2018 Disneyland All- American College band.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Summer Kodama is hosting a virtual listening session Saturday Jan. 16th at 10am PST, sharing the music of influential, yet underrepresented women of color.

She will also be sharing some of the contributions to the jazz lineage made by women.

Keith Nelson Bass

I was born in Pontiac, MI on August 7, 1960.

My first instrument of choice was tenor saxophone. In1971, at Torrejon Air Force Base (Madrid, Spain), under the direction of Mr. Swift, I discovered a talent and a love for playing instruments. Students had to learn rhythms before being allowed to touch any instrument. Next was the embouchure, and learning how to develop a sound on the mouthpiece. Music was fascinating; within a few months of my 6th grade school year I was 1st chair tenor saxophone in the concert band. By the 7th grade, along with being 1st chair Tenor Saxophone, I was holding challenge chairs in the trumpet, flute, and clarinet sections of the middle school concert band.

My family lived in base housing. One of our neighbors had a rock band, and not too far from where we lived was an R&B soul band. Both bands were populated with really cool teenage musicians. The Bass player in the soul band, Charles Gulliam, allowed my brother and I to tag along with him from time to time, and watch his group rehearse. Armed Forces Radio was the connection to the musical world at that time; Jazz, Opera, Soul, Rock, Country Western and everything in between was what I listened to. (There was basically no television; all you could do was read and listen!)

In 1973, my father was reassigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, NV. I played saxophone in the Eldorado High School Concert and Jazz Band under the direction of Pete Cameron, and in Dr. Kay Jensen’s Pop Group through my sophomore year. During my high school sophomore year, the school’s main bassist had to leave the school, which left a huge void that needed to be filled. I volunteered to play bass if the school music program could purchase one for me to practice on. A Gibson Grabber was what showed up. Practicing throughout the summer before my junior year, I began to turn into a bass player.

I attended UNLV in 1978 on a saxophone scholarship. At the same time, I auditioned for the award-winning Jazz Ensemble #1 under the direction of Frank Gagliardi and won the chair. I continued on saxophone throughout my sophomore year then switched to bass, primarily for the remainder of my degree, a B.A. in Theory and Composition with a minor in Education. Graduating UNLV in 1983, God Almighty blessed me with a world tour with the Disco Queen, Donna Summer. The rest is history and

My story is still being written…

Jakubu Griffin – Drums

Jakubu Griffin is truly one of Las Vegas and NYC’s most versatile drummers. Son of trombonist Dick Griffin, he has been surrounded by music from an early age. Growing up with many musical instruments and influences around him, he was always drawn to percussion and can remember playing the drums as early as age 3 or 4. He started studying classical piano at age 5, and later added the trumpet. When his trumpet teacher needed a drummer for the elementary school jazz band he jumped at the opportunity, influenced by his close friend Nasheet Waits, and inspired by his father’s childhood friend the great drummer Freddie Waits. Focusing mainly on classical percussion he attended the North Carolina School of the Arts in high school, and majored in percussion performance at Indiana University. While at Indiana University, he also continued his jazz studies with Dr. David Baker, and was honored to be selected as a member of Baker’s band as a freshman. Meanwhile, he continued to progress in his classical endeavors winning an IU concerto competition in 1992.

Jakubu has performed and lead groups all over the world. While living in Las Vegas in the early 2000’s, He was featured in David Cassidy and Sheena Easton’s “At the Copa” at the Rio Resort. He later went on to tour with David Cassidy. After that he was musical contractor and drummer on a show featuring Chaka Khan, Peabo Bryson, and Melissa Manchester called Signed, Sealed, Delivered a celebration of Stevie Wonder’s music at the Venetian Resort. Griffin has also been a musical director for Kings Productions, as well as Norwegian and Premier cruise lines. Back in the NYC area where he grew up, he has performed and recorded with award-winning jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas, Ryko/Warner recording artist Matt White, and Broadway stars Tracie Thoms (Rent, Case) and Shoshana Bean (Wicked). Jakubu is currently playing with the legendary Las Vegas singer Clint Holmes. He was also the drummer for Cirque Du Soleil’s production of Zarkana which premiered at NYC’s world-famous Radio City Music Hall in June of 2011, moving on to Madrid Spain, as well as having an historic run at the Kremlin Theater in Moscow Russia in 2012. Jakubu’s powerful yet very musical drumming reputation has been highly appreciated by many musicians and music lovers both here and abroad.

David Loeb – Piano

David Loeb is director of the Division of Jazz and Commercial Music and a professor of music in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, School of Music. He performed as a jazz pianist with Arturo Sandoval, Nancy Wilson, Tom Harrell, Joe Williams, Freddie Hubbard, Anita O’Day, Vincent Herring, Bill Watrous, Tom Scott, Bobby Shew, Joel Frahm, Karrin Allyson, Paul Horn, Bob Sheppard, Natalie Cole, Joe Farrell, Billy Hart, Pepper Adams, Ray Brown, Bob Mintzer, Joe Locke and many others. As a session pianist in Los Angeles recording studios, Loeb played for television shows including Family Guy, Hill Street Blues, Quantum Leap and The Emmy Awards and movies including Ted, The Birdcage and Pocahontas. He was principal keyboardist with The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and accompanied musical artists including Andrea Bocelli, Audra McDonald, Gil Shaham, David Foster, Patti LuPone, Placido Domingo, Jewel, James Galway, Kristin Chenoweth, Joshua Bell, Jessye Norman and Quincy Jones. Loeb performed on movie scores, television soundtracks or recordings for Bette Midler, Herbie Hancock, Robin Williams, Norah Jones, Jim Carey, Jennifer Holiday, Curtis Mayfield, Alan Menken, Walter Murphy, Carl Anderson, Bonnie Raitt, Mike Post, Smokey Robinson, Patti LaBelle, Jerry Lewis, Whitney Houston, Drew Carrey, Patti LaBelle, Kenny Loggins, Gladys Knight, Lou Rawls, Aaron Neville, Connie Francis, Wynton Marsalis, W.G. Snuffy Walden, Randy Newman, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, BeBe and Cece Winans, Manhattan Transfer, Regina Belle, Michael McDonald, Dionne Warwick and many others. He was pianist with Questlove, Ben Wendel, Angela Brown and other musical artists on the Grammy Award-winning recording, Ask Your Mama, composed by Laura Karpman, and musical director, conductor and pianist for Ben Vereen with many notable ensembles including The National Symphony Orchestra and Dee Dee Bridgewater with The Philadelphia Orchestra for the Marion Anderson Awards. At the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, Loeb was co-musical director, with Don Was, and conductor for the CBS television special, Sinatra100: An All-Star Grammy Concert, with Tony Bennett, Celine Dion, Harry Connick, Jr., Katharine McPhee, Garth Brooks, Alicia Keys, Seth MacFarlane, Nick Jonas, Carrie Underwood, Usher, John Legend, Tricia Yearwood, Zach Brown, Juanes and Adam Levine, musical director and conductor for Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Dance With Me and Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers and conductor for Lady Gaga’s concert appearance. In Las Vegas at The Smith Center, he performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue with the Las Vegas Philharmonic and was musical director, conductor and pianist for Larry Rosen’s Jazz Roots series with Clint Holmes, Kirk Whalum, Take 6 and Nnenna Freelon. Loeb orchestrated for George Benson’s performance at Carnegie Hall, Miriam Makeba’s concert at the Hollywood Bowl, Doc Severinsen’s appearance at President Reagan’s Inaugural Gala and many other events, arranged for The Academy Awards, Comic Relief, In Living Color, and The American Music Awards and composed music for PBS television and Dolly Parton.

UNLV Jazz Studies students, under his direction, have earned prestigious DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards, performed at the acclaimed Monterey Jazz Festival, Midwest Clinic and Jazz Education Network Conference and garnered outstanding CD reviews from Jazz Times Magazine. Loeb received the distinguished Nevada System of Higher Education Regents' Creative Activity Award and holds a Master of Music degree in jazz and contemporary media from the Eastman School of Music and a Bachelor of Science in music education from West Chester University of Pennsylvania.


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