Fourteen years ago, the Jazz Standard, world renowned as a fantastic stage for today’s best and most experienced musicians, asked the question: Who is developing the next generation of jazz performers?
“Jazz Standard wanted to bring jazz to young people who had never been exposed to it,” David O’Rourke, Director of the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra, told us. “And, at the same time, provide an educational performance-driven opportunity to the numerous young musicians who emerge every year seeking an outlet and guidance.”
The venue started a new program called the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra, in which 25 players between the ages of 11 and 18 have the opportunity to participate in a real jazz ensemble, tutored and accompanied by masters of the craft. This year’s program expects special guests such as Steve Wilson, Jeremy Pelt, Sirius String Quartet and Seleno Clarke.
The benefits of the program for young musicians include the practice time, learning to play as part of an ensemble, and best of all, the invaluable experience of performing in front of a live audience. Each Sunday, the orchestra performs at Jazz Standard from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the weekly Jazz For Kids brunch. The crowd enjoys arrangements of classics like “Cherokee” and “Billie’s Bounce” while dining on a full brunch menu by Jazz Standard’s upstairs neighbor Blue Smoke.
Saxophonist Jordan Young, member of the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra, says the greatest part of the program is the opportunity to “play at a world renowned jazz club every Sunday” and the ability to learn from experienced musicians. “The guests that are brought in have helped me pinpoint certain flaws in my playing.” Since starting in the program, Young has even started gigging occasionally as a sideman and creating his own arrangements.
“We are excited every year knowing that we are changing children’s lives,” says David O’Rourke. “Through our program, many students have received scholarships to the most famous conservatories, music colleges, and summer programs for jazz.”
The program has been lauded by the Daily News, Downbeat and Newsday both for the benefits it bestows upon young players and also for the simple pleasure of attending the performance, especially as a family activity. “Kids in the audience watch wide-eyed as other kids, some of whom are close in age and size, blow, pluck and jam away,” writes the Jazz Culture Newsletter.
O’Rourke senses a special energy from this year’s Youth Orchestra, telling us, “They are very motivated and the feeling of forward motion from them is palpable. It is always exciting for us to know that we are seeing tomorrow’s jazz stars at the ground floor of their development.”
Starting this first weekend in April, come to Jazz Standard every Sunday for a delicious meal and a chance to cheer on NoMad’s next generation of jazz artists.