ArtsLife Fall 2017

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ormation of the Dr. Phillips Center Jazz Orchestra — and the array of exciting educational opportunities surrounding it — is the result of a first-of-its-kind partnership between the arts center and Jazz at Lincoln Center, a world-renowned program based at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. The artistic director for Jazz at Lincoln Center is Pulitzer Prize-winning trumpeter, composer and arranger Wynton Marsalis, who has donated his personal arrangements to seed the arts center’s music library. Rodney Whitaker, artistic director of the arts center’s orchestra, performed as a member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in the mid-1990s. The local effort, while it will certainly result in some memorable concerts, is geared heavily toward education. In particular, it seeks to expose young people to the transformative power of music. Eventually, 18,500 public-school sixth-graders from Orange and Osceola counties will visit the arts center’s downtown campus for a curriculum-based jazz experience that will feature a performance by the orchestra. The program, dubbed “6th & Jazz,” will debut in the 2017–18 academic year. Music will be used to enhance instruction about civil rights issues, which is appropriate since the origins of jazz can be traced to AfricanAmerican musicians in New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also slated for the coming academic year is “Essentially Ellington,” a jazz education initiative for members of high school jazz orchestras. And debuting in September is “WeBop,” a jazz-oriented primer for tots. Kathy Ramsberger, the arts center’s president and CEO, says jazz is a good fit considering the diversity of the school system’s students, who come from about 200 countries and speak more than 150 languages. “Jazz is a great bridge,” she says. “They all speak the language of music.” Although other major arts centers identify specialty areas in which to concentrate — Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts, for example, presents its own opera 16

artsLife | FALL 2017

Philanthropists Judson and Joyce Green are supporters of the arts center’s jazz initiative. Judson Green, a former Disney executive, is a composer, musician and jazz aficionado.

season — formation of a resident jazz orchestra is a monumental commitment. “The combination of the full spectrum of jazz offerings from early childhood to high school through professional performances confirms our commitment to jazz for the global arts community,” Ramsberger adds. The initiative is supported by Orlando residents Joyce and Judson Green, who have pledged $5 million to the arts center. Judson Green, a former Walt Disney Company executive, is an accomplished jazz pianist with several albums to his credit. With part of the donation, the arts center will build The Green Room. It will be an intimate venue tucked behind Steinmetz Hall, a state-of-the-art acoustical theater being built on the arts center’s downtown campus adjacent to the Walt Disney Theater and the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater. “We believe that the arts center is the heartbeat of our great city — and we look forward to providing opportunities to bring international, national and local musical talent together,” says Judson Green. “Our entire community will be able to experience jazz in many ways, and for many years to come.” Adds Joyce Green: “We’re honored to combine our love of music and our desire to contribute to the mission of the arts center to further enrich and educate the community about the importance and the value of jazz.” 