Encore April 2018

Page 32


These cats are cool

New youth jazz orchestra fills niche in local music scene by


photography by


The next best thing to watching a professional jazz orchestra

perform is watching a youth jazz orchestra perform, especially one that’s newly minted, as the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra is. The 18-member KYJO includes high school musicians from 10 school districts and one home school. On a late afternoon in February, the orchestra visited Woods Lake Elementary to perform for Kids in Tune, an after-school orchestra program supported by the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities in Schools and the Kalamazoo Public Schools. A couple of rapt young boys perched on the stage behind the drummers, surveying each move and swinging their legs to the beat

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as Director Benje Daneman led the KYJO through “Tiptoe,” a standard by Thad Jones. When the song finished, Daneman asked the KIT students how the music made them feel, and they responded with words like “smooth,” “happy,” “hungry” and “cool.” These jazz musicians are hip — they’re finger-snapping, toe-tapping, head-nodding cats. Launched last fall, the KYJO offers high school youth the opportunity to connect with others who love jazz and want to make music at a higher level while also being exposed to professionals in the field. With rehearsals every other week, the audition-only orchestra came together quickly and was much more successful that Daneman