The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education, will present a virtual peer-to-peer jazz informance on April 13, featuring this year’s edition of the Institute’s National Peer-to-Peer All-Star Jazz Septet. Hosted by U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona and 14-time GRAMMY Award-winning jazz legend Herbie Hancock, the “informance” – a combination of performance with educational information – will be presented by seven of the country’s most gifted high school music students along with renowned jazz educator Dr. JB Dyas. The informance will not only focus on what jazz is and why it’s important to America, but also on the American values jazz represents: teamwork, unity with ethnic diversity, the correlation of hard work and goal accomplishment, perseverance, democracy, and the vital importance of really listening to one another.
“We’ve found that young people often learn about certain things better from kids their same age, and one of those is jazz,” said Hancock, Chairman of the Institute, NEA Jazz Master, and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “And when you hear how accomplished these musicians are at such a young age, you know their peers are going to listen.”
Besides playing jazz at a level that belies their years, the students will talk with their student audiences across the country about how a jazz ensemble represents a perfect democracy – individual freedom but with responsibility to the group – and the importance of finding a passion early in life, being persistent, and believing in yourself. When young people hear this important message from kids their same age, they are often more likely to listen.
The members of the septet selected nationwide include alto saxophonist Ebban Dorsey and tenor saxophonist Ephraim Dorsey from Baltimore; trombonist Melvin Nimtz from New Orleans; guitarist Kai Burns and pianist Joshua Wong from Los Angeles; bassist Gabriel Barnard from Miami; and drummer Lawrence Turner from Houston. “It has been both a joy and a challenge rehearsing and recording remotely with my fellow bandmates the past couple of months,” said Burns, who has done the lion’s share of engineering and mixing the group’s recordings. “While it’s unfortunate that we haven’t been able to actually play together in person due to the pandemic, we have all learned so much through this process – about music, technology, life, ourselves.”
“Jazz musicians have always been able to overcome problematic working conditions,” added Wong, who besides being one of the top jazz pianists for his age in the country has done all the group’s video editing. “It’s in our DNA.”
Along with national peer-to-peer tours featuring performances in high schools from coast to coast, the Institute has presented annual in-person jazz informances at the U.S. Department of Education during most of the past decade to highlight the importance of music education in our public schools. This year will be the first time it’s virtual. “Even in the worst of times, I always try to see if I can find a silver lining,” said Dyas, who will be leading the informance. “This year, because the informance is online, we’ll be able to reach thousands of students, teachers, administrators, and school boards across the country. And having Secretary Cardona and the great Herbie Hancock together to dialogue about music education and answer questions – amazing!”
Free and open to the public, the jazz informance webinar will be held via Zoom on April 13, beginning at 1:00 pm EDT. All attendees must register prior to the event to obtain a meeting number and passcode. Registration is open now. The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz has lead funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and United Airlines.