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March 21, 2013

Jazz Heritage Orchestra performas a show with talened high school bands

By Daniel Herda

On Saturday, March 16, the Jazz Heritage Orchestra and high school jazz bands from across the country performed the “Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Regional High School Jazz Band and Festival” inside the Main Classroom Auditorium.

The late Dr. Howard A. Mims, former director of the Black Studies Program at Cleveland State, founded JHO in 1998. His goal was to preserve the great jazz masters who were the original innovators in the art form of jazz.

Dr. Michael R. Williams, current director of the Black Studies Department, hosted the event. Williams opened with a speech on the importance of engaging the youth into culture and jazz, speaking to a crowded room and a nearly sold out auditorium.

“Nowhere else in the city of Cleveland will you get a collaboration of talented youngsters like you have tonight performing at Cleveland State,” said Williams.

The bands were from Shaw High School, Cleveland School of the Arts, Cleveland Music Settlement and the Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy in Camden, NJ.

The auditorium was full as the four schools jammed for nearly two hours. All of the high schools received standing ovations when they finished. One of the louder cheers was for “Young Jams” from Cleveland Musical Settlement directed by Ken LeGrande.

The high school that received the longest standing ovation was Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy directed by Jamal Dickerson. Dickerson said his musicians were honored to travel hundreds of miles to perform here at Cleveland state and stayed long after their performance. They played music by Miles Davis and featured an intense bongo solo that fired up the crowd and received a long applause. The audience cheered them on for two encores, which would have been more had Dickerson not intervened.

“We’re going to play one last tune because were excited to see the Jazz Heritage Orchestra play and we don’t want to hold them up,” Dickerson said.

During the set changes, Williams humored the audience with jokes while musicians set up their saxophones, trumpets, trombones, clarinets, drums, xylophones, keyboards and guitars. He also spoke about JHO and the talent they have.

“We have the best big band in the country,” said Williams.
JHO is considered one of the top orchestras in the U.S. and was chosen to host the site because of its work with young musicians.

Under the leadership of JHO band director Dennis Reynolds, JHO has performed with jazz legends like Benny Golson, Clark Terry, Nancy Wilson and Vanessa Rubin.
Reynolds spoke about Dr. Howard A. Mims and his dream to take outstanding musicians and create a jazz program that would continue to become popular.

“I’ve had many conversations with Dr. Mims, and this is what he wanted, and I do believe we pulled it off,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds plays the trumpet for JHO and introduced the other band members as the concert continued. JHO played pieces titled “Shiny Stockings” and “Fried Buzzard.”
JHO has recorded two CDs, “Steppin Out” and “Bouncing with Benny,” and the
Cleveland State Black Studies Program holds the copyright to both.

The high school bands from Saturday’s performance will be recommended to participate in a national competition in New York, NY.
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