Feature photo by Kensie Wallner
Jazz is more than a genre; it represents the individualistic yet collective identity of America.
A staple of our country’s musical history, jazz continues to influence modern music today. From huge names like Miles Davis and John Coltrane to musicians in the Fargo-Moorhead community, there’s one event set to bring it all together around jazz.
“A Day of Jazz Giants,” set for 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at Trollwood Performing Arts School in Moorhead, is a workshop open to musicians of all ages and skill sets to learn, listen, compare and discuss jazz with three local faculty members from local colleges. Guest faculty to speak during the workshop include Matthew Patnode from North Dakota State University, Allen Carter from Minnesota State University Moorhead and Russell Peterson from Concordia College.
The day will be capped off with a live Dixieland band info-performance. As working musicians with jazz experiences ranging from around the world, these local music educators have a wealth of stories to share. Their collective experiences make these local jazz giants the right trio to introduce some of the most monumental jazz giants throughout history.
Peterson first played with his jazz band in high school, performing a piece called “Samantha” by Sammy Nestico. It was followed by a creative crescendo into a professional career that included performing in Switzerland, Spain and Russia and education in Bordeaux, France.
“I started by listening to recordings of other people playing it and imitated their tones, inflections and phrasing,” Peterson says. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is how you learn jazz — imitation. After performing that tune, I was hooked. I started listening to as many saxophonists as I could.”
The art of improvisation all starts with imitation: that’s where listening comes in. During the workshop, attendees will have the chance to examine music across the years and follow the genre’s progression in style while learning about big-name artists.
“People say improvisation is just making it up on the fly, and part of that’s true, but improvisation isn’t by chance,” says Kicks Band of Fargo Moorhead President Tim Johnson. “We practice all these scales and chord progressions to get a certain amount of it in our souls and make it feel meaningful.”
Kicks Band of FM is hosting “A Day of Jazz Giants” as part of their commitment to offering continued jazz education. Since 2014, the band’s focus has shifted toward jazz arts education and providing high-quality jazz arts programs to the community.
“Jazz has such a rich history in America, but it’s in danger of getting left behind,” Johnson says.
That’s why Kicks Band is dedicated to preserving American’s original art form of jazz. The band was founded in 1975 by Edward Christianson for musicians to enjoy music socializing, playing great big-band literature and to improvise jazz. They started as a group of musicians getting together simply for “kicks.”
“A Day of Jazz Giants” is just a taste of the joy jazz can bring to musicians — and audiences — for everyone from beginners to experts. It’s an opportunity to spark an interest that just may last a lifetime, too.
“With these workshops, we hope to inspire students to explore jazz, listen to the great artists, experiment with improvisation and take it back to their schools and try it in the real world,” Peterson says. “We’re not going to make anybody a great improviser with a three-hour clinic, but hopefully we can inspire them to continue working on the craft.”
This activity is made possible through grants from the Lake Region Arts Council.
What: “A Day of Jazz Giants” workshop
When: 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16
Where: Trollwood Performing Arts School, 801 50th Ave. SW, Moorhead
Info: Tickets available online for $55; fmkicksband.com
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and appeared in print on Monday November 11, 2019.