Midwest Young Artists - Jazz in January!

Since Allan and I began MYA with a small group of families 18 years ago, I have spent a lot of time on the front lines of MYA operations. This year, we decided to redirect my energy toward community relations and development. These two areas have much in common: both benefit from effective communication and both have a longer timeline than that of the day-to-day operations.  I have been enjoying this chance to reflect on some bigger picture issues that affect MYA, young musicians, their families and our country.  

In an effort to raise some of these ideas, I thought it would be productive and fun to start a blog so MYA families have a chance to look “inside” MYA.  When MYA first started, a number of people asked Allan what he did during the week.  It was obvious what he did on Saturdays, but what he did to get ready for that day was not.   Our families see and experience great concerts like our Jazz in January concert last Sunday, but not necessarily what goes on getting there or how we evaluate the experience afterward. 
The goal of Jazz in January has always been to offer an opportunity for our students to work with and be inspired by top musicians in the field jazz.  Past guest artists have included the late Johnny Frigo, Grad Goode, Bobby Lewis, Rich Fudoli, the late Barrett Deems, Mark Colby, Sean Jones, Rufus Reid, and Dick Oates.  Last year, we had Victor Goines, and this year, Chris Madsen recommended Steve Davis who had soloed with the Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble last year.  

What a good choice!  It was obvious that Steve Davis really loved what he was doing!  And I think the word Chris used to describe him was “gracious.”  The thesaurus defines gracious as kind and giving.  Synonyms are: accommodating, amiable, approachable, big-hearted, charitable, compassionate, congenial, and considerate.  Not only did our students work with a great performer and teacher, but how great that they could see a gracious person as a role model! 
We had good attendance despite the Bears v. Packers game, but we lost audience after intermission so many students in the younger bands didn’t learn from listening to the Big Band.  Chris, Jarrard, Allan and Will decided it might be a good idea to shorten the concert next year by just featuring the Big Bands on the Sunday concert.  The guest artist would still work with the combos on Saturday and the combos would play in a jazz club on Saturday night.   

Besides shortening the concert, do you have any ideas for how we can get the students to stay for the whole event?


  1. Steve Davis was terrific. I caught one of the rehearsals and loved his rapport with the kids. The students are so fortunate to have exposure to these top-notch pros—whether they appreciate it now or later.

    As for cutting out of concerts early, I'm surprised that some families don't see the benefits of hearing the higher-level groups perform. Yet, I admit that my husband kept looking at his watch, and my son needed to get home to tackle homework. I wonder if the concerts are too long to fit into a typical family's schedule. I'd make the concerts shorter, cut out intermission and require that the kids stay for the duration of the concert. (Just one opinion!)

    Thanks for all you do, Karen and Allan.

  2. I noticed this at the fall concert (on Halloween) as well. A large amount of the audience left before Voices Rising performed. While I know it is difficult to move the groups around, if somehow the groups performed one piece together toward the end, perhaps in a learning/mentoring way they would have to stay. Or perhaps don't have an intermission (i.e., don't give them the opportunity to leave.)

  3. What a great concert last Sunday. This is our first year with MYA and Michael is loving it. He studies trumpet at the Music Institute of Chicago and we have experienced a similar situation of families with younger kids leaving at intermission. The problem seems to be alleviated by shortening the concerts, mixing up the program a bit, and from the outset setting the expectation that everyone stays til the end. We were actually surprised at how the place cleared out so quickly at intermission last Sunday. We stayed til the end and it was great to sit with Michael and enjoy the rest of the concert together. I too sat in on the rehearsals with Steve Davis. What a treat to see them all working together and soaking in the ideas and advice of this wonderful master teacher, performer and all around great guy. Thanks again.


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