An Impressive Finish for Jazz in the Classroom Class of 2021

Among the myriad challenges COVID-19 has created for students and teachers, music education has proven a tough nut to crack. This is particularly true for jazz, with its emphasis on interaction, musical conversation and spontaneity – all rendered decidedly less practical by the constraints of virtual learning. Students like Elder Gindroz, a pianist, longtime participant in the Institute’s Los Angeles Jazz in the Classroom program and member of the Class of 2021 spent much of the last academic year finding creative ways to stay engaged when the bandstand was off limits.

“It was very disappointing to not be able to play live with my school ensembles and combos this past year,” says Gindroz, echoing similar sentiments from young jazz musicians across the country. Still, the talented pianist turned his long hours at home into an opportunity for growth, from brushing up on fundamentals (“practicing, transcribing, listening to a lot of music”) to acquiring new competencies that will serve him long after the pandemic has faded. “The newest skill I learned,” he notes, “was how to better navigate the process of making recordings at home.”

This expertise was on full display at the Institute’s Jazz in the Classroom Virtual Spring Concert, presented in June 2021 with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Beyond the Bell Branch Music and Entertainment Education. Gindroz joined his classmates from the top combo, led by Jazz Director Philip Topping, at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts at Hamilton High School for a virtual rendition of Cedar Walton’s “Ugetsu.”

Elder Gindroz, top left, joined fellow students from the Academy of Music and Performing Arts at Hamilton High School (clockwise from top right) Osmar Barrios on drums, Brennan Sakata on bass, Kobie Dozier on tenor saxophone and Declan Houlihan on vibraphone for the Institute’s 2021 Jazz in the Classroom Virtual Spring Concert.

Students performed under the direction of Institute teaching artist Kevin Kanner, a Hamilton alum. As has become a familiar practice over the past 18 months, individual parts were recorded asynchronously at home, and then stylishly edited together by the students. Though none of the players were in the same room, the performance sounded crisp and lively, with swinging solos by Gindroz on piano and bandmates Kobie Dozier on tenor saxophone and Brennan Sakata on bass.

The masterful recording is especially impressive considering that Gindroz, along with fellow recent Hamilton graduates Osmar Barrios and Declan Houlihan, began his jazz journey just five years ago as a Jazz in the Classroom student at Walter Reed Middle School.

All three students credit their time in Institute programs with helping them develop a deep-seated passion for jazz. Notes Barrios, a drummer, “it was amazing to be able to work with extremely talented musicians like Dontae Winslow and Kevin Kanner. They are incredible musicians and human beings. In the sessions that I would get with the school combos I would learn a lot about jazz; not only how to swing but also where jazz comes from. The Institute is a great opportunity to grow musically and as a person.” 

For Houlihan, a vibraphonist, “the Herbie Hancock Institute was a very significant and essential part of my jazz education, starting in middle school up until my senior year of high school. I feel very lucky and privileged to have been shown the foundations of bebop, how to transcribe, how to listen to my bandmates and play with them–the truest essence of the music.”

“I was excited to see three students who were previously in the Jazz in the Classroom program at Reed continue with the program at Hamilton,” says Reed Middle School Orchestra and Jazz Director Stewart Rosen. “It is truly amazing to see how far they were able to take jazz in their four years in high school. I am so proud of them, and I know they all have so much to look forward to after graduating.”

Gindroz, Barrios and Houlihan now join more than 80 other Institute students across the country who are slated to start their collegiate studies in the fall.

Many members of the Class of 2021 will be entering professional music programs at prestigious institutions such as the Berklee College of Music, Juilliard, New England Conservatory of Music, and Manhattan School of Music. Others plan to pursue studies in areas as diverse as marine biology, physics, business and pre-med at schools including New York University, Stanford, the University of Miami, the University of Michigan, Vanderbilt, California State University, Northridge and many more. Three students will matriculate at UCLA, recently ranked one of the top 15 universities in the world by Times Higher Education and the home of the Institute’s master’s degree program, the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Adding to the impressive slate of college destinations is the fact that 76% of graduating seniors secured significant scholarships, with most covering at least 25% of tuition. This financial support is crucial in enabling many Jazz in the Classroom graduates to attend college. As part of their participation in the Institute’s program, students have access to experienced mentors and teaching staff who provide vital input on scholarship applications and even advocate directly for students.

Jazz in the Classroom has been a core program of the Institute since 1989, introducing millions of young people to jazz and its rich history through weekly music instruction and instrument training sessions. Like all Institute programs, Jazz in the Classroom is offered entirely free of charge to participating students, families, schools and communities. In addition to regular instruction in major cities like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., the program reaches tens of thousands of students every year through master classes and assembly programs in urban, rural and remote areas of the country. Leading jazz musicians and educators teach and serve as role models, helping students enhance their creativity and self-esteem.

Beyond enhancing students’ understanding of and appreciation for jazz, programs like Jazz in the Classroom have well-documented related benefits, especially for students from low-income or otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds. Through intensive mentorship and regular technical instruction, students are given the tools to unlock their potential in addition to their musical ability – preparing them for success in academics, in the workplace and in later life. As a recent report by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music notes, “The benefits of music training reach far beyond the domain of music-making. Children perform better on IQ tests and enjoy enhanced abilities in other domains, such as mathematics, the ability to focus, make decisions, and hold multiple ideas in their minds at one time.” In addition, music programs “improve school attendance and graduation rates.”

The Institute is proud that 100% of Jazz in the Classroom students graduate from high school, with more than 95% going on to college.

“Our partnership with the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz has been fruitful in more ways that can be measured,” says Tony White, coordinator for LAUSD Beyond the Bell Branch Music and Entertainment Education.

“Having the teaching artists from the Institute work side-by-side with our schools has encouraged participants to continue studying and performing jazz, but more importantly has taught them how to use the creative energy that jazz intensifies in all parts of their lives. The students and teachers involved in the program continue to sing (and play) the praises.”

For Gindroz, Jazz in the Classroom has played an important role in helping him expand his horizons both on and off the bandstand. The 18-year-old, who will matriculate at California State University, Northridge in the fall, gave his first public jazz performance as an eighth-grader at an Institute concert, and just a few years later was selected to compose and perform an original piece in honor of jazz legend Herbie Hancock.

“Jazz opens up your mind,” says Gindroz, “and provides you with a better understanding and appreciation for many other genres of music. Unlike classical piano, which is more about learning and perfecting pieces exactly how they are written, jazz requires you to delve deeper into yourself to improvise and have your own voice. I believe this process builds confidence and originality that will help in many different aspects of life.”

Asked about the role of jazz in helping him navigate the challenges of the pandemic, Gindroz simply replied, “Having jazz as a creative outlet during that difficult time was how I kept a positive outlook on life.”

The Institute goes virtual in response to COVID-19

With schools across the country closed indefinitely and state and local governments encouraging self-isolation and shelter-in-place strategies, the Institute is deploying its industry-leading educational resources and award-winning teaching staff to support students, parents and educators across the United States. Programs like Jazz in the Classroom and the National Performing Arts High Schools initiative are still being offered via Zoom to our partner schools in Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New Orleans, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and beyond.

Working closely with band directors and music teachers at each school, each online session is tailored to the needs of each student or ensemble and includes lessons in jazz history, theory and improvisation, transcription, key jazz repertoire and technical skills, including “gap” areas in student knowledge that can be adeptly addressed through virtual learning such as reading and playing syncopated rhythms. 

NEW Online Summer Sessions Announced

The Institute recently announced that it would be offering a series of free online summer sessions for students from grades 4 through 12, based on the innovative Jazz in America and BeBop to Hip-Hop education programs.

Beginning on June 22, Institute Vice President for Education and Curriculum Development Dr. JB Dyas will lead a virtual webinar series using the Jazz in America jazz history and appreciation curriculum. Each age-appropriate session will take students on a fun, fascinating journey through jazz. Sessions will be offered in three groups: grades 10-12 (June 22-July 8), grades 7-9 (July 13-29) and grades 4-6 (August 3-12). Learn more and register for the free Zoom sessions today.

On June 25, Institute staff and teaching artists will offer a 10-week BeBop to Hip-Hop Masterclass Series, at no cost to participants, for up to 100 students across the country. Aspiring producers, musicians and rappers will create music with guidance from renowned music industry professionals. Students will have opportunities to collaborate virtually on original music projects. Applications must be received by Tuesday, June 23. Find out how to submit your materials today.

We Need Your Help to Offer the Best in Jazz Education–Now Online

Institute Chairman Herbie Hancock explains how the Institute is updating its programming in response to the coronavirus.

Have a look at how students across our programs, from the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music to Jazz in the Classroom, have been continuing their students virtually:

The Institute will continually update this post with new distance learning resources geared to students of all ages. Stay tuned, and stay healthy!

Leadership Through the Jazz Paradigm

by Dr. J.B. Dyas, Institute Vice President for Education and Curriculum Development

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of JazzEd Magazine.

Jazz is being performed all over the world in every kind of venue imaginable – jazz clubs, concert halls, festivals, universities, high schools, coffee shops, shopping malls, hotel lobbies, restaurants, art museums, and more. But who would have thought that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would be among them? Turns out that besides loving the music for the aesthetic enjoyment it provides, the FTC powers-that-be realize the important lessons in leadership that can be procured from jazz. With a mission of protecting the consumer via the elimination and prevention of anticompetitive business practices, monopolies, and false advertising–along with over 1,000 employees from investigators to attorneys to specialists in information technology, public affairs, financial management, and public policy–the FTC recognizes that effective leadership is paramount.

The FTC’s chief learning officer, Mark Kern, contacted me as the Commission was organizing a three-day Leadership Academy for their highest level employees. Apparently, there’s some infighting in Washington, D.C. these days (Really? I hadn’t heard!), including at some of our federal agencies, and Kern thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if the FTC ran more like a jazz group?” They were interested in, “learning from the jazz space how to build better coalitions and partnerships on teams in their space.”

This all came to fruition at the FTC Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where the Herbie Hancock Institute National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Quartet–comprising four of the most impressive high school jazz musicians in the country–along with renowned jazz trumpet recording artist Sean Jones and I presented a workshop entitled, Leadership Through the Jazz Paradigm.

After performing a couple of tunes, we gave our “What is Jazz and Why It’s Important to America” presentation, demonstrating how jazz works and how jazz exemplifies our most deeply held American values: teamwork, unity with ethnic diversity, the correlation of hard work and goal accomplishment, democracy (individual freedom but with responsibility to the group), persistence and perseverance, respect for one another, tolerance, and the vital importance of really listening to one another. This was followed by our describing leadership in jazz and what might be gleaned from it to inform current and future leaders at the FTC and others outside the music realm.

Following is a synopsis of six exemplary leadership lessons found in jazz that we examined and demonstrated:

Jazz musicians…

1. Know how to overcome problematic working conditions. For example, if the stage is too small, the piano is out of tune, the acoustics are bad, the pay is way light, and/or whatever else, we still have a great set! If the hi-hat doesn’t work, or the drummer doesn’t show up, we still have a great set. And if a couple of players in the band don’t see eye to eye, we not only have a great set, we just might create some of the most beautiful music in history like jazz greats Miles Davis and John Coltrane did in their 1950s group. There you had two musicians who had such totally different philosophies on the “right” way to play jazz (Miles using space, Trane filling up every space, et cetera), and no one would ever accuse them of being best buddies. Yet, that group has gone down in history as one of the most exquisite pieces of art (irrespective of genre) of all time–right up there with da Vinci, Beethoven, Mozart, Picasso, Baryshnikov, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Spielberg…And, from a business standpoint, the album, Kind of Blue, that Miles and Trane recorded in 1959, is not only a masterpiece, it’s the best-selling jazz record of all time.

2. Take turns leading. Even when there’s a designated leader in the group (which is most often the case), each member of the group will take turns leading, depending on the moment and the situation. For instance, at any given moment during a performance, the soloist might be in charge, or the drummer, or the rhythm section collectively, or whoever. Everyone in the group acknowledges this and goes along, enjoying the different leadership of the moment. For example, although piano luminary Dave Brubeck was certainly the designated leader of the iconic Dave Brubeck Quartet, leadership changed hands continuously among Dave, saxophonist Paul Desmond, and the rhythm section (bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello) throughout every performance. Collective leadership can be heard on their extraordinary recordings as well. The superlative results are legendary.

3. Know that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and that the goal is more important than anything else. In the case of the jazz combo, the goal is to make great music. So, once on the stage, we ignore any personality conflicts, we check our egos at the door, we work together and enjoy the experience regardless of whatever–all in order to achieve our goal of making great music. No matter what, jazz musicians always “maintain civility in the workplace”–something that all those in government agencies, business, higher education, healthcare, and everywhere else should do.

An excellent example of two jazz icons whose personalities couldn’t have been more opposite, but who worked together successfully for years are, again, Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. Dave was a devout Catholic, faithful husband, and family man who took care of his health and didn’t indulge in drugs, booze, or cigarettes. Paul was a confirmed bachelor, infamous womanizer, avid drinker, drug user, and chain smoker (he died of lung cancer at age 52). Yet, this duo, too, is universally known for recording some of the most groundbreaking albums of all time, including the fifth best-selling jazz album in history, Time Out, featuring the chart-topping single, “Take Five.” Offstage, Dave and Paul may have butted heads and argued about everything under the sun, but once they hit the downbeat, they were of one mind, one purpose.

4. Recognize the contributions of others. Jazz musicians revere the masters of the past and so enjoy listening to those of the present. We’re always talking about how great someone else plays. We love to help and encourage up-and-coming players. And we’re quick to point out when someone in the band has done something cool and compliment them (“Loved the substitutions you played on the bridge… Man, you sound better and better every time I hear you… Love what you did at the end of ‘Cherokee’ – can you show me?”).

5. Really listen to each other. Jazz musicians can only function if they’re actively and intensely listening to one another. Wouldn’t it be great if Congress were made up of all jazz musicians!

6. Improvise. Often in government agencies, business, and everywhere else, things don’t always go according to plan. Here, improvisation is key – making something that went awry into something better than if it hadn’t gone awry! Piano legend Herbie Hancock tells the story of how once when he was playing with the Miles Davis Quintet in the 1960s, he spaced out for a second and, while Miles was soloing, he played not only the wrong chord, but the “worst chord possible.” Miles immediately changed his note and made it fit beautifully – better than if Herbie had played the “right” chord. This became somewhat of a common occurrence in that group and it, too, has gone down as one of the most successful and influential in history. Miles encouraged his “employees” to experiment, be creative, and lead him as much as he led them.

By the reports, the presentation was well-received by all in attendance. “The reaction to the jazz informance was extremely positive,” wrote Kern in an email regarding the evaluations submitted by the FTC Leadership Academy attendees that included such sentiments as, “Just incredible; I haven’t appreciated jazz until today and the related leadership points were truly illuminating” and “The leadership found in jazz is so very relevant [to our work at the FTC] and brought to the topic a new point of view.”

“The participants came away with a keen understanding of how jazz relates to leading in our agency in an enlightening and permanent way,” Kern continued. “Perhaps our best lesson was on individuals able to do their own thing while positively contributing to the overall good.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of JazzEd Magazine. Click here to download the full article.

Getting the Band Back Together: National Peer-to-Peer Quintet performs at 2019 Competition

The 2019 edition of the Herbie Hancock Institute National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Quintet, comprising five of the most impressive high school jazz musicians in the country, recently reunited to perform at the Institute’s International Jazz Guitar Competition Finals & All-Star Gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on December 3rd. On the same bill as such jazz luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, and Bobby Watson, the group opened the show with acclaimed saxophonist Antonio Hart, performing Hart’s arrangement of Seven Steps to Heaven, one of the first compositions Hancock recorded with fellow jazz icon, Miles Davis.

(From left) Institute Teaching Artist Antonio Hart performs with National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Quintet members Jalin Shiver, Sasha Ripley, and Jeremiah Collier during the 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on December 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images for Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz

The power of peer-to-peer

Under the direction of Dr. JB Dyas, the Institute’s VP for Education and Curriculum Development, the peer-to-peer students annually participate in weeklong national peer-to-peer jazz informance tours in which they gain invaluable performance experience playing alongside internationally acclaimed artists while they, in turn, educate young audiences in public schools across the U.S. about America’s indigenous musical art form, jazz. In so doing, they not only help develop jazz audiences for the future, but also exemplify the deeply held American values that jazz represents: teamwork, unity with ethnic diversity, democracy, persistence, and the vital importance of really listening to one another.

The 2019 National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Quintet rehearses with Teaching Artist Antonio Hart and Institute Vice President for Education and Curriculum Development Dr. JB Dyas prior to the 2019 Competition on December 3, 2019. Photo by Steve Mundinger/Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz

The 2019 group was composed of alto saxophonist Jalin Shiver(Newark), tenor saxophonist Sasha Ripley (Houston), pianist Dalton Hayse (Los Angeles), bassist Dario Bizio (Los Angeles), and drummer Jeremiah Collier (Chicago). The Quintet toured New England in spring 2019 with esteemed trumpeter/educator Sean Jones, performing in high schools in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. They also performed at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, DC, where they presented a workshop for the FTC’s highest level employees on leadership lessons that can be gleaned from the jazz paradigm.

The Institute congratulates these talented young artists on their achievements, and thanks them for their dedication to sharing the positive lessons of jazz with audiences of all ages.

Dr. Dyas in DownBeat: Tour Etiquette for Young Musicians

The following is an excerpt from the article “Road Rules: Tour Etiquette for Young Musicians” by Institute Vice President, Education and Curriculum Development Dr. JB Dyas, which appears in the October 2019 issue of DownBeat Magazine.

Touring can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience–if you are prepared for it. But if you’re not prepared, being on the road can be a drag for the entire band and crew.

For the past 14 years, I have had the pleasure of annually taking combos comprising the nation’s top performing arts high school music students on National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Education “All-Star” tours on behalf of the Herbie Hancock Institute. Through this initiative, young musicians tour for a week with an eminent jazz artist, presenting jazz “informances” in public schools. These talented young musicians help develop future jazz audiences while simultaneously honing their own musical and professional skills.

Besides schools, the combos have performed from coast to coast in the nation’s top jazz clubs, such as the Sequoia Room, the Jazz Showcase and Blues Alley. They’ve also appeared at prestigious venues, such as the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Our guest artists have included luminaries such as Ambrose Akimusire, Bobby Broom, Gerald Clayton, Sean Jones, Steve Wilson, Bobby Watson, Antonio Hart, Don Braden, Kellylee Evans, Lisa Henry, Ingrid Jensen, Delfeayo Marsalis, Christian McBride, Terell Stafford and Charenée Wade.

Being selected to participate in one of these tours can be a life-changing opportunity. Maximizing it not only helps each student grow as a musician, but as a person as well.

I provide these teenage musicians with useful “on-the-road” tips—the kind they aren’t likely to learn in school. These young players go on tour with artists who are in a position to help jump-start their careers, and perhaps offer a college scholarship. I frequently remind students that the manner in which they comport themselves is just as important as how well they play. Being regarded as “such a pro” at a young age is the best; being regarded as “such an amateur” is the worst.

Simply put, “a pro” is someone who has their act together. He or she is always prepared and on time, and needs to be told things only once. As honor bands—such as the Herbie Hancock Institute National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Sextet, the Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation Jazz Orchestra and Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz—embark on tours, I offer the following advice to the participants to help them attain the stature of “a pro.” Admittedly, besides playing jazz with integrity at an advanced level, the goal is to be as impressive as possible on and off the bandstand, prompting all those who have the potential to help you succeed in this business to take notice.

Know the Music

Before the tour begins, make sure you have all the music “down.” If you’ll be playing in a small group, this means the music should be totally memorized: heads, changes, harmony parts, backgrounds, hits, everything. Make a playlist of the definitive recordings of all the tour tunes and listen to them continually. Make sure you know the personnel as well.

I also recommend you practice along with the recordings, copping the phrasing, groove and feel. And transcribing a few phrases from your favorite soloists not only will increase your jazz vocabulary, but give you credibility when you quote them, subtly letting the guest artist and your band mates know that you’ve done your due diligence.

For standards, I advise you to practice them daily with an Aebersold play-along recording from the first day you memorize them up to the day the tour begins, emulating a seven-nights-per-week gig. This way, when it comes time to perform with the guest artist and your fellow bandmates, you’ll be ready. Again, all tour tunes should be completely committed to memory.

Five-Minute Rule

Always be at least five minutes early for everything. If the itinerary says to depart the hotel at 7 a.m., then you should be packed up and seated in the van no later than 6:55 a.m. For rehearsals, it’s the 15-minute rule, meaning that if a rehearsal is scheduled for 4 p.m., you should be set up and ready to play at 3:45 p.m. Unexpected delays can arise, and things can take longer than you anticipate. Keeping your bandmates—and especially the guest artist—waiting is unprofessional and, frankly, disrespectful.

Proper Attire

Look sharp, put together and clean. On our Herbie Hancock Institute Peer-to-Peer tours, our male performers wear jackets for our school concerts, and jackets and ties for our nightclub gigs. Naturally, this includes nice pants and clean shoes. Our female performers wear a dress or pants with a nice top. Because the concerts are pretty intense, I also recommend the stu-dents bring a different shirt for each day, making the long van rides ever so much more tolerable. And, of course, nothing should look disheveled. (An iron and ironing board are available at most hotels.)

Before bringing in and setting up equipment, it’s a good idea to hang up your jacket or place it on the back of a chair, keeping it from getting wrinkled during the rigorous setup and sound check process. And when you’re not on a stage but still in public (in restaurants, hotel lobbies, etc.), keep your clothing neat and present a positive image. In those situations, casual attire is OK; sloppy clothing is not. Take a cue from the masters: How would Wynton Marsalis or Maria Schneider look?

Read the full article in DownBeat Magazine.

Learn more about the Institute’s Peer-to-Peer jazz education program.

Los Angeles Jazz in the Classroom students open 24th annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival

Students in the Institute’s Los Angeles-area Jazz in the Classroom program performed as part of the featured lineup for the 24thannual Central Avenue Jazz Festival this weekend, continuing a tradition of participation in one of Southern California’s most beloved community jazz events. Made up of top high school jazz musicians from throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Herbie Hancock Institute/LAUSD Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Band entertained audiences with an hour-long set of big band classics and modern compositions under the direction of Institute Education and Curriculum Development Vice President Dr. JB Dyas and Beyond the Bell Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator Tony White.

As Saturday’s opening act on the Ella Fitzgerald Stage at Central and East 43rdStreet, the All-City group effectively kicked off the two-day series of performances. The weekend highlighted a litany of renowned artists like pianist Eric Reed, saxophonist Azar Lawrence, vocalist Cassandra Wilson and drummer Chris Dave. Other groups, including Stefon Harris & Blackout and the contemporary musical collective Katalyst, prominently featured alumni of the Institute’s high school and college programs. The All-City Jazz Band’s preparatory role for talented young local musicians was in particular evidence, with program graduates Christopher Astoquillca and Devin Daniels leading their own groups on the billing.

A man in a purple shirt stands with a microphone before a group of seated high school students with musical instruments
All-City Band co-directors JB Dyas (left) and Tony White (right) present the group during the 2019 Central Avenue Jazz Festival. Photo by Danny Sheiman, LAUSD Beyond the Bell

Founded to celebrate Central Avenue’s historical role as a major West Coast hub for jazz for much of the 20thcentury, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival is one the largest free events of its kind. Organizers tout a high-profile lineup of established and up-and-coming artists, spanning names from Teddy Edwards and Gerald Wilson to Gretchen Parlato and Kamasi Washington, as well as vaunted local groups like Justo Almario’s Afro-Columbian Ensemble and Barbara Morrison’s Bu Crew.

In addition to nonstop music across four stages—including the historic Dunbar Hotel, famed for hosting legendary performers such as Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Duke Ellington—attendees benefit from an array of local food vendors, free health screenings and professional development resources. The annual event is presented by Los Angeles Councilman Curren D. Price, Jr. and LA’s Ninth Council District, among other partners.

A group of students and their teachers pose for a photo with musical instruments
The 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute/LAUSD Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Band. Photo by 
Danny Sheiman, LAUSD Beyond the Bell

Performances at prominent local venues and community events are a regular feature of the Institute’s programs, matching rigorous instruction in improvisation and group dynamics with opportunities for students to put their skills into practice, onstage—an essential component of the jazz tradition. In addition to the Central Avenue Festival, in recent years the Institute/LAUSD All-City Jazz Band has appeared at the Hollywood Bowl, Catalina Jazz Club, the Roxy Theatre and the Musicians Institute, among other settings.

Learn more about the Institute’s Jazz in the Classroom program.

Institute brings life lessons of jazz to Federal Trade Commission

The Institute’s National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Quartet shared the life lessons of jazz with participants at the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) inaugural Leadership Academy. Led by Institute Vice President for Education and Curriculum Development Dr. JB Dyas and renowned jazz trumpeter Sean Jones, the two-hour “informance” analogized real-world management and leadership situations through the lens of a jazz ensemble. Dyas, Jones and a Peer-to-Peer Quartet made up of gifted Institute high school jazz students from across the nation provided live musical examples and discussed why the study of jazz helps develop critical skills. These include overcoming problematic working conditions; taking turns leading; recognizing the contributions of others; really listening to one’s colleagues; and, of course, improvising when things don’t go according to plan.

Dyas also offered examples demonstrating why jazz embodies and supports important American values, including teamwork, persistence and perseverance, the vital importance of really listening to one another and, especially, democracy—individual freedom but with responsibility to the group.

The application of jazz principles in broader social and corporate contexts has seen growing adoption by high-profile members of the corporate community, from Finnish electronics giant Nokiato Chinese dumpling restaurant chains. As Columbia Business School Executive Development Program Faculty Director Dr. Grant Ackerman noted,

“Jazz offers us many of the elements we need for leading and managing successful projects and organizations—from creating space for others to lead to really listening to ideas of others…if we can create these kinds of work practices in organizations, there might be a chance we can leave meetings with the same enthusiasm as jazz musicians leaving a jazz session who say ‘how soon can we do this again?’”

Five jazz musicians hold instruments and perform for a group of seated people
Peabody Institute Jazz Chair and renowned trumpeter Sean Jones leads the Institute’s National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Quartet in a musical performance as part of the June 20 FTC session.

Designed as an intensive primer in crucial leadership skills for high-level FTC employees, the three-day conference included modules on topics like “Managing Your Boss,” “Unconscious Bias” and “Maintaining Civility in the Workplace.” Chaired by FTC Chief Learning Officer Mark Kern and Chief Human Capital Officer Vicki Barber, the program brought together colleagues from multiple internal departments as well as other federal agencies to share their perspectives on the challenges facing developing leaders.

The Institute’s jazz informance was one of the highest-rated presentations of the 2019 Leadership Academy, with one participant calling it “definitely the highlight of the three days.”

Learn more about the Institute’s National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Education Program.

Sean Jones, Lisa Henry lead 2019 Peer-to-Peer Tour in New England Public Schools

Weeklong series of events includes two performances open to the public at Blue in Portland, Maine on May 25

Washington, DC – With lead funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz will bring its Peer-to-Peer jazz education program to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine public schools May 20-25. Combining performance with educational information, these “informances” will be presented by five of the country’s most gifted high school music students along with internationally acclaimed trumpet recording artist Sean Jones, Kansas City jazz and blues vocalist and a former winner of the Institute’s International Jazz Vocals Competition Lisa Henry, and renowned jazz educator Dr. JB Dyas. Each school visit will include an assembly program featuring a musical performance for all students, followed by workshops for each school’s jazz band and choir with the visiting student performers playing alongside and sharing ideas with their New England counterparts.

“We’ve found that young people often learn about certain things better from kids their same age, and one of those is jazz,” said jazz great Herbie Hancock, Chairman of the Institute, NEA Jazz Master, and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “And when you hear how accomplished these musicians are at such a young age, you know their peers are going to listen.”

Besides playing jazz at a level that belies their years, the students will talk with their New England peers about what jazz is, why it’s important to America, and how a jazz ensemble represents a perfect democracy. They also will discuss important American values that jazz represents: teamwork, freedom with responsibility, unity with ethnic diversity, the correlation of hard work and goal accomplishment, and the importance of finding a passion early in life, being persistent, and believing in yourself. When young people hear this important message from kids their same age, they are often more likely to listen.

The members of the all-star quintet selected nationwide to participate in the New England tour include alto saxophonist Jalin Shiver from Newark; tenor saxophonist Sasha Ripley and pianist Tyler Henderson from Houston; bassist Dario Bizio from Los Angeles; and drummer Jeremiah Collier from Chicago. “It has been both a joy and a real challenge working on Mr. Jones’ compositions the past couple of months,” said Henderson, who recently performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC along with Hancock and other jazz greats. “He’s definitely one of today’s top modern jazz artists, but always with reverence to the swing and bebop traditions.”

Immediately following the informances, Jones, Henry, and Dyas will conduct jazz workshops for each host school’s jazz band and choir in which the visiting students will play side-by-side with their Vermont, New Hampshire, and Portland counterparts, providing tutelage peer to peer. In so doing, they will teach and learn from one another not unlike what Herbie Hancock did with Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and so many other eminent band mates over the past half century. They’ll also learn about each other’s cities and cultures.

“I’m really looking forward to talking to and playing jazz with the students on the other side of the country,” added Bizio, who also recently performed at the Kennedy Center. “Whether it’s East Coast or West Coast, jazz is jazz.”

The weeklong tour will conclude with two performances open to the public on May 25 at Portland’s premier jazz club, Blue (650A Congress St.), where Portland residents and visitors are invited to enjoy an evening of music with Jones and Henry alongside jazz’s future “young lions.” The septet will perform standards, jazz classics, and contemporary jazz, including compositions from Jones’ and Henry’s latest recordings. The shows begin at 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm. For further information call 207-774-4111 or visit

Read the full press release.

Learn more about the Institute’s Peer-to-Peer program.

Christian McBride Holds Free Master Class During February Residency

Master jazz bassist and nationally recognized broadcaster Christian McBride punctuated his weeklong residency at the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA with a free master class at the Jan Popper Theater last Tuesday. The packed session was webcast live via the Herb Alpert School of Music’s website.

Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance Artist-in-Residence Christian McBride (center) performs with the Institute’s Class of 2020 during his February 12 master class at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Photo: Holly Wallace / Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz

“For some reason, in jazz, when you see female musicians, people tend to [say] ‘that’s unusual.’ We want that to stop.”

Hosted by Hancock Institute West Coast Director Daniel Seeff, the master class featured live performances with the Institute’s Jazz Performance Ensemble and a Q&A session in which McBride addressed a wide range of topics, including gender equality in music. “For some reason, in jazz, when you see female musicians, people tend to [say] ‘that’s unusual,’” noted McBride. “We want that to stop.”

Institute West Coast Director Daniel Seeff (right) interviews Artist-in-Residence Christian McBride during McBride’s master class at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Photo: Holly Wallace / Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz

The Tuesday evening event was a highlight of McBride’s latest residency at the Institute’s two-year Jazz Performance program. Over the course of the week, the jazz master worked directly with the Institute’s Class of 2020, both as an ensemble and individually, as well as with students from the broader UCLA community. He also served as a guest lecturer for two UCLA courses—Distinguished Professor Robert Winter’s Analysis for Performers and Jazz and Political Imagination, taught by UCLA Distinguished Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History Robin Kelley.

A six-time Grammy winner, the Philadelphia-born McBride is one of the most requested, most recorded, and most respected figures in the music world today. He currently hosts “The Lowdown” on SiriusXM and NPR’s “Jazz Night in America.”

Intensive learning opportunities with masters of the music are a hallmark of the Institute of Jazz Performance program. Past Artists-in-Residence have included NEA Jazz Masters Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Dianne Reeves and Wayne Shorter, among many others.

Learn more about the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance.

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Institute leads free workshop for talented South Central music students

Music students at the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center in South Central Los Angeles benefitted today from a pair of Institute-led workshops designed to hone critical skills and help them succeed in competitive university music programs. Dr. JB Dyas, the Institute’s Vice President for Education and Curriculum Development, worked with the Center’s Junior and Senior Jazz Bands on tune memorization, audition preparation, and other practical techniques. 

A man, standing, talks to a group of young seated students holding musical instruments
Institute Vice President Dr. JB Dyas works with students at the Pullum Center on January 22, 2019.

Following the workshop, Dr. Dyas recruited three talented students from the Pullum Center bands for the LAUSD/Herbie Hancock Institute All-City Jazz Band, which comprises the best high school jazz musicians in Los Angeles. The Institute administers the All-City group in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Beyond the Bell after-school initiative. As All-City Jazz Band members, guitarist Cesar Gandara and saxophonists Ronnie Heard and Christopher Powe will have the opportunity to study and perform with nationally renowned jazz artists and educators at some of LA’s highest-profile venues, including the Hollywood Bowl.

As part of its decades-long commitment to Los Angeles, the Institute regularly leads free jazz education and outreach programming in schools and community-based organizations like the Pullum Center. Programs include daily and weekly in-school and after-school instruction with renowned teaching artists, as well as public performances and workshops at LA institutions like the World Stage and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

A man, standing, and a group of seated students holding musical instruments all laugh.
Dr. Dyas shares a laugh with students at the Pullum Center during the January 22 workshop.