About the author: Jacob Caines is director of the Dalhousie Wind Ensemble as well as a faculty member and musicianship coordinator in the Fountain School of Performing Arts.
Performance is always collaboration and a conversation. It is a joint effort between the performers, audience, and the art itself. This is one of the great joys of making music in an ensemble — you get to, and have to, do it with others.
This Wednesday (Nov.29), audiences got to hear that conversation come to life once again as the Dalhousie Jazz Ensemble continued an important fall tradition. Each year, Director Chris Mitchell (shown left) collaborates to build a concert with high school students from the Halifax Regional Arts Senior Jazz Band and Ryan Froude, its director.
The two ensembles share the stage and perform some of the best the repertoire has to offer: Gershwin, Shorter, Ellington, and Monk. This lineup of pieces has been carefully chosen by Mitchell and Froude to challenge the students and spark a love of performing with others.
“This collaboration is not only a testament to the upbringing of young talent, but to the open, communal nature of the Halifax music scene,” says Mitchell. “We have a scene that thrives on interpersonal relationships and shared ideas.”
Revealing what's possible
Although the set list of standards all speak for themselves, their true value is in the way they inspire further creation. Dylan Taylor, drummer for the Dalhousie ensemble, enjoys the injection of vibrancy and energy that watching younger players learn brings to the ensemble.
“It's a great way for university drummers to observe the kind of enthusiasm that's unique to people who are brand new to the instrument. When I was in high school, seeing older drummers helped me establish goalposts,” he says.
These moments are what make live collaborative performance vital to the musical education of high school students and undergrads alike. Most musicians can point to a moment when they realized they wanted to perform. Often, it is going to see the symphony or ballet, big band or Broadway show. Often these moments come from being an audience member.
This long-held Jazz Ensemble tradition is different. These students get to meet the other performers, talk with them and see how they work. Trombonist Dylan Hay remembers being a high school student and working with university musicians. “It shows emerging musicians what is possible with a few years of hard work and dedication and reminds senior university students where they've come from.”
A creative environment
The energy and vibe of the group itself fosters an environment that makes this collaborative learning possible. Students in the ensemble unanimously point to Mitchell as leader of the ensemble for this open and creative environment.
“Working with Chris is always interesting,” says Hay. “He brings true rigor and intensity to the music but with a great sense of humour that really helps the ensemble to gel.”
This humour and musical rigor is something the high school students are sure to remember as they prepare for the next stage of their learning.
The Dalhousie Jazz Ensemble's performance happens tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Joseph Strug Concert Hall. Buy tickets now or at the Box Office and join the toe-tapping fun and hear the best that up-and-coming Halifax jazz has to offer.
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