Jazz combo entertains, educates Bay-Waveland students

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Students at Bay-Waveland Middle School found their groove Thursday, thanks to some special visitors from New Orleans. Musicians from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz treated the youngsters to more than an hour of songs and music lessons.

The lead singer's sultry voice filled the cafeteria at Bay-Waveland Middle School late Thursday morning. The jazz brunch featured seven young musicians were chosen from a pool of more than 300 who applied to the prestigious jazz institute in New Orleans.

Assata Simpson found inspiration in the talented jazz combo.

"I really like it for myself. I was already a fan of jazz, but now I'm just really pumped up about it," said the 8th grader, "It's just the vibe and the feeling of it that makes it so unique and exciting. It's a really great experience."

Along with entertaining at the jazz brunch, the musicians took time to explain the improvising that's the very heart of their New Orleans sound.

"We base what we play as soloists on the harmony and chord structures of what's going on. We can play with that, we can play with the rhythm," guitarist Davey Mooney explained to the kids.

The group's pleasing blend of jazz standards and original songs was enough to keep the attention of a normally restless middle school audience.

Tynisha Johnson liked what she saw and heard.

"Well you know, it was a great experience. Yeah, I really like it," said the 8th grader, "Music has a way of relaxing you."

At a time when it's a challenge to keep the performing arts part of a middle school curriculum, special events like this are welcome indeed.

"If you can bring the world into a school building, it just opens their imagination and creativity. And having this opportunity to have a New Orleans jazz band to enrich their cultural experience was a wonderful opportunity for the middle school," said Principal Dr. Cherie Labat.

Sharing their talents and gift of music at schools around the country is an important part of the master's level music education program at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at Loyola University in New Orleans.

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