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.

Institute Students, Alumni Represented at 23rd Central Avenue Jazz Festival

Students in the Institute’s Los Angeles-area public school-based education programs received top billing at last weekend’s Central Avenue Jazz Festival, a decades-old LA institution. Also on offer were multiple ensembles led by alumni of both the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Competitions.

On Saturday, June 28th, the Thelonious Monk Institute / LAUSD All-City Big Band delivered an hourlong set of classic and contemporary music on the Etta James Stage. A collaboration between the Institute and the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Beyond the Bell after-school program, the All-City band enlists some of the district’s most talented student musicians for regular instruction and rehearsal with master teaching artists, as well as high-profile public performances throughout the year. Trombonist Ido Meshulam, from the Institute of Jazz Performance Class of 2016, and trumpeter Chad Willis served as special guests for the performance.

Separately, the Thelonious Monk Institute / LAUSD All-Star Combo gave a 45-minute performance at the nearby Dunbar Hotel. An historic property, in its heyday the Dunbar routinely hosted top names in jazz, including Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, and formed a key locale for Los Angeles’ African-American community in the 1930s and ’40s.

Conducted by Institute Vice President of Education & Curriculum Development Dr. JB Dyas, the Thelonious Monk Institute / LAUSD All-City Big Band performs on the Etta James Stage during the 23rd annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival.

Later in the day, the festival hosted a special “All-Star Alumni Jam Session” on its Jazz Improv stage, featuring a house band made up of recent alumni of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. Alto saxophonist Alex Hahn ’18, pianist Miro Sprague ’14, bassist Alex Boneham ’16 and drummer Christian Euman ’16 kept things swinging for nearly four hours while a packed crowd of local musicians, including festival performers and students from the All-City Band, sat in and played.

LAUSD Beyond the Bell Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator Tony White with the Institute’s All-Star Alumni band: Miro Sprague ’14, Alex Hahn ’18, Christian Euman ’16 and Alex Boneham ’16.

Highlights of the program on Sunday, June 29thincluded a performance by the Katalyst collective, led by alto saxophonist and Institute of Jazz Performance Class of 2016 graduate David Otis, as well as sets by Institute Class of 2003 graduate and Vocals Competition winner Gretchen Parlato and Vocals Competition semifinalist Tierney Sutton.

Now in its 23rdyear, the annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival is a featured event on the Los Angeles cultural calendar. Offered entirely free and open to the public, the festival pays tribute to the historic Central Avenue corridor, at one time an “epicenter of West Coast jazz” where legendary artists like Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Dinah Washington and Cab Calloway performed. Previous festival lineups have boasted an array of established jazz artists and rising stars, including Kenny Burrell, Pete Escovedo, Gerald Wilson, Kamasi Washington and many others.