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  • Donny Thompson, M.S., NPA

“LAS VEGAS YOUTH JAZZ ORCHESTRA" Launches in Southern Nevada

JOI has wanted to create a youth jazz orchestra since our inception in 2017, bringing together student musicians of all demographics and from as many schools as possible creating a community of musicians for the next generation. Collaboration is often the key to rapid yet pragmatic growth and we found that partnership in the Las Vegas Youth Orchestras organization. Led by Executive Director Doug Van Gilder, LVYO has its own rehearsal and storage spaces central to town in the New Orleans Square portion of the historic Commercial Center. Directed by our Vice President and Director of Programming, Gary Cordell, the big band consists of students from high school seniors to as young as 11 years old. The packed Launch event in February 2020 included performances by Clint Holmes, Kenny Rampton, the JOI Trio, and was attended by several local band directors, Patrick Duffy of Nevada School of the Arts, Kim Russell of The Smith Center, Ryan Fetterer of Family Music Centers, Mayor Pro Tem Michele Fiore who hosted a live interview, and many special guests. The event culminated in a rousing rendition of "When The Saints Go Marching In" as all the students in attendance were given a quick live jazz lesson, then set loose with Kenny and Clint into the courtyard of New Orleans Square to perform for the local merchants and their customers.

Regardless of where he is in the world on tour, JOI founder, President, and Artistic Director Kenny Rampton video conferences in live every week on a big screen to observe, advise, and teach students along with Gary and a host of professional musicians who are invited to attend and sit in with the band as mentors. The mentors, who volunteer their time, are among the top professional musicians in Las Vegas. These mentors include: Curt Miller, Ray Logan, Wes Marshall, Daniel Falcone, John Summers, Lauren Cordell, Buddy Charles, Larry Aberman, Etsuko Mader, Rob Mader, Garrett Hypes, Dave Richardson, Sonny Hernandez, Randy Crawford, and Zach Guzman-Meija. JOI would like to express deep gratitude to all its mentors for sharing their time and knowledge with the members of the LVYJO. In the six rehearsals, beginning early February, the band made remarkable strides playing music curated by Kenny from fellow bandmates in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. We also were fortunate to receive a very large donated library of jazz charts from the private collection of Ed Humphrey.

COVID-19 caused a suspension of in-person rehearsals and a planned concert in May at The Smith Center, but we are maintaining engagement with the band through our new Las Vegas Youth Jazz Orchestra Facebook Group page and are also working with our friend and JOI supporter, musician Curt Miller who is a master audio engineer (Curt also did the sound for us for EE 2020). Curt is working to help our students do remote recording sessions which are being used to create a master video recording of one of the orchestra’s favorite pieces of music, “Armageddon,” composed by Wayne Shorter and arranged by JLCO member Marcus Printup. The piece is featured on the recently released Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis CD, “The Music of Wayne Shorter.”

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