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From Steve Torok, music instructor/director, LIVE from New Orleans
Our trip to New Orleans for the JEN Conference was a fantastic success. I can’t tell you how pleased I am. ALL of the students represented themselves with maturity and professionalism. Not one was even a minute late or unprepared for anything and actually arrived early and eager. This includes an 8 am rehearsal start on Friday morning! Musically, they performed at the highest levels. We received many compliments from jazz educators and professionals from around the country. Our students saw unbelievable performances and attended amazing clinics. They connected with jazz educators and students from around the country. They tried pro gear and met celebrity musicians in the expo. They personally interacted with musical heroes including Branford Marsalis, Kirk Whalem, Randy Brecker, Jeff Coffin, Peter Erskine, Victor Wooten, and really way too many to mention here.
Amazingly, several of our students were invited to take part in Victor Wooten’s improvisation clinic, joined him on stage, and performed with him to a packed house. The band included bassist Steve Bailey and drummer Roy Wooten, better known as Future Man. This is basically Bela Fleck’s band and they have performed with countless other jazz and pop stars. Every one of them is a virtuoso and multiple grammy winner. Those students were recognized throughout the rest of the conference and sort of treated as celebrities! People even asked for pictures. It was a thrill for them but I hope it does not go to their heads!!
Outside the conference we visited the French Quarter, walked down Bourbon Street, visited Jackson Square, saw the Mississippi, saw street parades, and heard surprisingly excellent street musicians. We visited Louis Armstrong Park, the original site of Congo Square, and the Jazz National Historical Park. At the New Orleans Jazz Museum we saw Louis Armstrong's first cornet (from when he was 13 years old and in a school for delinquent boys) and his last trumpet. It was awe inspiring. And we sampled New Orleans delicacies like gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish, beignets, and gator!
I can’t sufficiently explain how inspiring and life changing this experience was for our bands. And for me as well! I would love to go into more detail and share photos and stories when we get a chance.
I want to specifically commend Matt Carruthers and Jim McKinley for their excellent work in support of our events and travel. And their excellent work in assisting me with the safe coordination and stewardship of the group.
I also appreciated the support from the college foundation, PIO for the creation of a beautiful insert in the conference program, Kathy Brown for the excellent recruiting materials we distributed, facilities for the use of the vans, and the police for watching our cars. I am sure I am forgetting others that helped as well.
Thank you for supporting this truly amazing opportunity!