Jazz Outreach Initiative hosted its first “Jazz Awareness Soiree” at the home of Executive Director Donny Thompson on August 5, 2019. The event was a resounding success drawing nearly eighty of the city’s most influential citizens including philanthropists, developers, local and state politicians, county and state higher education leaders, news anchors, business owners, jazz education supporters, and more. The purpose of the Soiree was to begin to widen our circle of major supporters and draw in influential citizens inspired to help us build our program through volunteerism, community activism, and financial support.
Guests were able to meet our Board of Directors and several Advisory Board members while enjoying outstanding Italian food and wine sponsored and hosted by D’Agostino’s Trattoria. During the event, our new Social Media Managers, Amy Cingel-Crosley and Arianna Beasley not only captured the moments but also performed with JOI President and Artistic Director, Kenny Rampton. Professional photographer Brittany Thompson of Brittany Anne Photography donated her time and talents capturing special moments and more formal portraits for guests who shared their experiences on social media. The JOI Trio performed throughout the evening comprising members of the award-winning UNLV Jazz Ensemble, Patrick Hogan on piano and vocals, Michael Hoffman on drums, and UNLV Graduate Carlos Holguin on bass.
After some welcoming remarks and introductions by Donny, the highlight of the evening was the Nevada Premier of Kenny Rampton’s original piece, “Until Next Time”, featured in John Guare's Pulitzer and Tony Award Nominated New York City Broadway Play SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION. The performance was a precursor to Kenny’s performance at the Composer’s Showcase Concert at Myron’s Cabaret at The Smith Center two nights later. Kenny (trumpet) was accompanied by the JOI Trio, and a string quartet which included three members of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, JOI Advisory Board member Lauren Cordell (violin 1), Geri Thompson (violin 2), Omar Shelley (viola), and Moonlight Tran (cello).
The enthusiastic audience then was treated to a surprise duet performance of Eden Ahbez’s ballad “Nature Boy” with Kenny on trumpet, the JOI Trio, and none other than double Grammy© nominated singer, Clint Holmes! The duo did great justice to Nat King Cole’s famous rendition, sending the audience into wild applause. Finally, Kenny introduced our guests to the focus of the evening, our youth programs, outreach efforts, and future plans for the organization. Showcasing the JOI Trio, Kenny performed with Ari Beasley (sax) and Amy Crosley (drums). The two comprise our Social Media team and are jazz students at UNLV who were a part of our early successes through the Essentially Ellington Regional High School Jazz Band Festivals and Jazz For Young People Concerts. Ari spoke about how JOI helped move her to embrace jazz on a deeper level and include it in her college studies. Virtuoso trombonist Eli Macaggi from Green Valley High School Band then performed with the JOI Trio and Kenny. Another beneficiary of our Essentially Ellington and in-school clinic program, Eli expressed how JOI had been instrumental in his high school exploration of jazz and now considers it as a viable career after Kenny Rampton spotted his talent and arranged free Skype lessons from Vincent Gardner of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
Everyone who attended was thrilled with the outstanding program and food. We saw guests from political opposites brought together through a common love of jazz. Several guests showed great interest in our current and upcoming projects as we mingled throughout the evening and as they were leaving for the night. We’re looking for ways now to collaborate with many of those showing interest in support of the growth of Jazz Outreach Initiative. We will continue to look for ways to engage the public in our ongoing growth through gatherings such as this, hosted at homes, businesses, parks, wherever we are invited. And we will continue working to earn the support of our new friends… “Until Next Time!”