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 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.