NEWPORT- New Englanders have grown up surrounded by a great music scene and appreciation for musical talent. However, students today have been faced with a lack of musical education because of the declined funding for the subject. Despite budget cuts, this year, 200 students will have the chance to experience and appreciate the genre of Jazz during the first day of The Newport Jazz Festival Aug. 1.
This aspect to the 60th annual festival will allow Boston public school students ranging from elementary aged to high schoolers, to experience first-hand top jazz musicians, and understand jazz in history and culture. This idea is the result of Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein, and lead sponsor Natixis collaborating with the Boston Public School Visual and Performing Arts Department and the non-profit organization Jazz Boston, in hopes of bringing musical education to students in a new and exciting way.
Wein, a talented jazz musician who played for The Newport All-Stars, and founder of The Newport Jazz Festival, and Newport Festivals Foundation Inc. has given this project his full support. After over 50 years in the jazz world he plays a big part in getting the youth of New England together with jazz as a genre and talented jazz musicians.
Among the lucky high schoolers attending the festival this year is Alyssa Oates, of West Warwick High School, who will be receiving a scholarship from Natixis for when she attends the University of Rhode Island this fall. The talented trombone player is a part of the All State Jazz Orchestra, and is one of two students receiving a scholarship at the festival.
“One of the first places in schools that gets cut is the arts budget, and music is usually the first place to feel the budget cuts,” said John Hailer, CEO of Natixis. “What we want to do is help some of these kids continue their art form and their music.”
The $5,000 scholarship will give Oates a helpful start to her college career. Hailer, along with his company has given full support to the festival for the past four years, and his own love for jazz has sparked his interest in this particular festival and the Newport Festival Foundation..
“I’ve always loved music and I’ve always loved jazz,” said Hailer. “One day about five years ago I read a small article about how George Wein was creating a foundation, and I thought ‘wow what a good idea.’”
Now, with the collaboration of all parties involved, lucky students will get to experience the importance of jazz through performances and talks with musicians, something they may not have experienced otherwise.
“We don’t want jazz to become a museum piece that this new generation has never been afforded the opportunity to hear, like I did when I was growing up,” said Hailer. “ We think it’s a really good opportunity to educate them all about the genre.”
Although the students will just be attending the first day of the Newport Jazz Festival that will kick-off Aug. 1 at 11:30 a.m. with the Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors, featuring David Sanchez, the rest of the event will continue through the weekend with many great musical performances. The 60th anniversary event will celebrate the importance of jazz in American culture while educating students at the same time.
“This is one of the great things that Rhode Island has to offer to people all over the world,” said Hailer. “The more people that can go there and be involved and help support it, its just such a great institution.”
If you go
The Newport Jazz Festival will begin on Aug. 1 at 11:30 a.m. on the Ertegun Fort Stage, and will continue through the last performance on Aug. 3 at 5:10 p.m. The festivities take place at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, and tickets can be purchased at ticketmaster.com. For more information visit newportjazzfest.org.