(NEWARK, NJ) -- George Wein and James Moody, both legendary pioneers of jazz, are the inspirations for a pair of performance-driven programs created at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) to nurture the next generation of jazz talents.
For the 2016-17 academic year, 10 of the most gifted high school musicians from throughout New Jersey were chosen for the George Wein Scholars Ensemble, named for the longtime music impresario and founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and supported by the Joyce and George Wein Foundation. In addition, 18 students were accepted as members of the new James Moody Jazz Orchestra (formerly the Brick City Jazz Orchestra), established in recognition of Newark’s great saxophonist (1925-2010).
“Having George Wein as a mentor during almost 20 years at Festival Productions was not only a once-in-a-lifetime privilege, but taught me an early lesson in the importance of passing our musical legacy to up-and-comers,” said NJPAC President and CEO John Schreiber. “I can think of no better way to thank these champions than to advance innovative arts education programs like these.
“By their names, the George Wein Scholars Ensemble and James Moody Jazz Orchestra personify the spirit of these big-hearted pioneers of music and set the bar for our students to live up to a high standard of excellence.”
The young instrumentalists and vocalists of the George Wein Scholars Ensemble and James Moody Jazz Orchestra were selected from NJPAC’s Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens program. The George Wein Scholars is considered the premier ensemble for the entire jazz curriculum at NJPAC and its members are personally mentored by acclaimed alto saxophonist Mark Gross, the arts center’s director of jazz instruction, with support from the Jazz for Teens faculty.
Gross also conducts the Moody orchestra, which meets on Saturdays at NJPAC’s Center for Arts Education and offers the opportunity for students to take additional classes in disciplines ranging from ear training to jazz theory.
“What a beautiful honor for there to be a James Moody Jazz Orchestra in the city that he loved so much,” said Linda Moody, who was married to James Moody for 22 years. “Moody was never one to toot his own horn, but I know that he would be bursting with pride.
“Moody felt that education was the key to everything. These students are fortunate to be under the direction of Mark Gross, who Moody respected and loved. Along with James Moody’s music, jazz education is his legacy and this is a tremendous honor.”
Musicians of the George Wein Scholars Ensemble remain with the ensemble through their senior year of high school. Those who plan careers in jazz or music education will receive support in their college application process, including audition preparation and recording, and introductions to jazz educators in the metro New York area.
The Scholars fulfill performance requirements by giving public concerts in the Greater Newark area at such venues as festivals, community centers, and Clement’s Place, a jazz club in Rutgers University’s student residence at 15 Washington St. in Newark. These teenagers also will record their original musical pieces and research Wein’s life work as part of their classes in composition.
In addition, the ensemble members will attend concerts of NJPAC’s “Wayne Shorter Weekend” – a salute to another of Newark’s venerable saxophonists from April 20-23 – and spend time backstage with artists. An excursion to the Newport Jazz Festival in the summer will include a face-to-face meeting with Wein and select festival performers.
“One of the joys of living long enough and having achieved a degree of success in one’s career is being able to give back,” Wein said. “It is a happy occasion for me to support the George Wein Scholars and I look forward to seeing them in Newport this summer.”
Some of the other compelling ways in which students learn about their jazz heroes are through master classes with high-profile professionals, backstage meet-and-greets, and field trips.
Through a partnership with the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark, the nation’s renowned jazz archives, the Scholars were invited to tour its new facility and exhibits, and receive the assistance of archivist and musician Angela Lawrence in research projects.
“The George Wein Scholars Ensemble is just the latest step in NJPAC’s increasingly important role in jazz education. We are thrilled to help deepen and enhance their growth in jazz through the use of our archives,” said Wayne Winborne, the institute’s executive director.
The following is a list of members of the George Wein Scholars Ensemble and the James Moody Jazz Orchestra for the 2016-17 academic year. Five students (indicated by asterisks) play with both groups:
George Wein Scholars Ensemble
Gabriel Bar-Cohen, 17, of Princeton (drums). Princeton High School, 12th grade
Nia Harris, 16, of Newark (voice). St. Vincent Academy, 10th grade
Michael Morocho*, 17, of North Arlington (tenor saxophone). North Arlington High School, 12th grade
Ricky Persaud, Jr., 18, of Irvington (guitar, voice). Irvington High School, 12th grade
Jordan Phillips*, 15, of Matawan (alto saxophone). Matawan Regional High School, 9th grade
Gregory Pise*, 17, of Clifton (bass). Passaic County Technical Institute, 11th grade
Benjamin Samuelson, 17, of Glen Ridge (guitar). Glen Ridge High School, 12th grade
Leonieke Scheuble, 14, of Rockaway (piano). Morris Hills High School, 9th grade
Jalin Shiver*, 16, of Newark (alto saxophone). Arts High School, Newark, 11th grade
Filip Vizitiu*, 16, of Summit (trumpet). Summit High School, 10th grade
James Moody Jazz Orchestra
Jonah Balagtas, 17, of Lodi (bass). Lodi High School, 12th grade
Gabriella Carrizo, 17, of North Haledon (piano). Passaic County Technical Institute, 12th grade
Nicholas Clements, 16, of Summit (baritone saxophone). Summit High School, 10th grade
Scott Greenblatt, 18, of Summit (piano). Summit High School, 12th grade
Peter Hunter, 18, of Ramsey (guitar). Ramsey High School, 11th grade
Malachi Lewis, 16, of East Orange (drums). Cicely Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts, 10th grade
Andres Marquez, 16, of Millington (second tenor saxophone). Watchung Regional High School, 11th grade
Myles McGowan, 17, of Lodi (trombone). Bergen County Academy, 12th grade
Shamar McPherson, 16, of Newark (clarinet). Arts High School, 10th grade
Michael Morocho, 17, of North Arlington (first tenor saxophone). North Arlington High School, 12th grade
Jordan Phillips, 15, of Matawan (second alto saxophone). Matawan High School, 9th grade
Gregory Pise, 17, of Clifton (bass). Passaic County Technical Institute, 11th grade
Matt Renzo, 18, of Warren (drums). Watchung Hills Regional High School, 11th grade
Jalin Shiver, 16, of Newark (lead alto saxophone). Arts High School, 11th grade
Filip Vizitiu, 16, of Summit (lead trumpet). Summit High School, 10th grade
Andre Weinberger, 15, of Maplewood (second tenor saxophone). Columbia High School, 10th grade
Ace Williams, 13, of Maplewood (second trumpet). Maplewood Middle School, 7th grade
Tomas Zabala, 17, of Clifton (guitar). Passaic County Technical Institute, 12th grade
About George Wein
George Wein is considered to be as much a legend as his festivals. Through his company, Festival Productions, he has spearheaded hundreds of music events since 1954, when he produced the first Newport Jazz Festival – an event that started the festival era. Five years later, Wein and folk icon Pete Seeger founded the Newport Folk Festival. In 1970, Wein founded the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He pioneered the idea of sponsor association with music events, beginning with The Schlitz Salute to Jazz and the Kool Jazz Festival. His company went on to produce titled events for JVC, Playboy, Mellon Bank, Verizon, Essence, Ben & Jerry’s and others.
Wein celebrated his 90th birthday in 2015, but still has as much creative fuel as he did when he started the Newport festivals and advanced the concept of live music. In 2010, he founded Newport Festivals Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that will perpetuate the history of jazz and folk music in Newport and will allow the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals to live on in perpetuity.
As a result of his diverse contributions to jazz and world culture, Wein has been honored by heads of state, educational institutions and leading publications. Wein is an NEA Jazz Master (Jazz Advocate) and received a Grammy Honorary Trustee Award in February 2015. In 2013 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and New Englander of the Year from the New England Council. In 2012 Wein was given the APAP Award of Merit for Achievement in Performing Arts for an individual “whose genius, energy and excellence has defined or redefined an art form.” In addition, honors and awards have been bestowed upon him by Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, AARP, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the French Legion d’Honneur, Chile’s Order of Bernardo O’Higgins and other organizations around the world. Wein is the recipient of honorary degrees from Boston University, the Berklee College of Music, Rhode Island College of Music, Providence University and North Carolina Central. Wein is a lifetime Honorary Trustee of Carnegie Hall and a member of the Board of Trustees at Jazz @ Lincoln Center.
In addition to his work as a producer, Wein is an accomplished jazz pianist, whose group, Newport All-Stars, has toured the United States, Europe and Japan. Over the years, the Newport All-Stars has featured some of the greatest musicians in the history of jazz.
Wein’s autobiography, “Myself Among Others: A Life in Music” (Da Capo Press), which chronicles his life in jazz, was recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association as 2004’s best book about jazz. In addition to his life in jazz, Wein has a long history of involvement with philanthropy and the arts, including the establishment of the Joyce and George Wein Chair of African American Studies at Boston University, the Alexander Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Simmons College and an annual artist prize given through the Studio Museum in Harlem in honor of his late wife, Joyce Alexander Wein. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation named the Jazz & Heritage Center in honor of George and Joyce. This education and community facility offers free music classes in the Tremé section of New Orleans.
About James Moody
Born in Savannah, Ga. on March 26, 1925 and raised in Newark, James Moody was 16 when he took up the alto sax, a gift from his uncle. After hearing Buddy Tate and Don Byas perform with the Count Basie Band at the Adams Theater in Newark, Moody fell under the spell of the deeper, more full-bodied tenor saxophone. In 1946, following service in the U.S. Air Force, Moody joined the seminal bebop band of Dizzy Gillespie, whose array of talent included Milt Jackson and Thelonious Monk. Moody’s now legendary 16-bar solo on Gillespie’s “Emanon” alerted jazz fans to an emerging world-class soloist.
In 1949, Moody recorded his masterpiece of improvisation: “Moody’s Mood for Love,” based on the chord progressions of “I’m in the Mood for Love.” His performance on Manhattan Transfer’s album “Vocalese” earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance and he received another nomination, this time with Gillespie, for their rendition of Gillespie’s “Get the Booty,” which showcased scatting at its best. Moody also recorded “Young at Heart,” a tribute to songs associated with Frank Sinatra and an album many believe is among the most beautiful of all James Moody recordings.
In 2004, Moody made “Homage,” his first album after a six-year absence from the studio. “Homage” featured new tunes written for him by artists such as Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock. His last CD, “4B,” won the 2011 Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz Recording.
Moody died on Dec. 9, 2010. Peter Watrous wrote in The New York Times: “As a musical explorer, performer, collaborator and composer he has made an indelible contribution to the rise of American music as the dominant musical force of the 20th century.”
PHOTO: James Moody Jazz Orchestra (Pictured at the Blue Note / NYC) Photo Credit Rosa Hyde