In January 2015, legendary jazz trumpeter, music educator and Grammy Award-winning musician Wynton Marsalis completed his 2014-15 residency at Shenandoah Conservatory, and the highlight of his involvement is the world premiere of his newly revised, complete “Blues Symphony” on Wednesday, Feb. 4, presented by Washington Performing Arts at The Music Center at Strathmore.
The premiere will feature the Wynton Marsalis Quintet and the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Jan Wagner. Marsalis has worked intensively with the 79-piece orchestra over the past few months, providing them with insight into his work and teaching them how to incorporate more “swing” into their classical training.
Marsalis reflected on his most recent visit to Shenandoah via a post on his Facebook page, and noted that “It was a busy and emotionally rich week and I left having experiences I know will become even more significant as valued memories.”
In addition, Marsalis sat down with Dean of Shenandoah Conservatory Michael Stepniak, Ed.D., to be interviewed as part of the conservatory’s American Icons series.
“Wynton Marsalis reminds us that artistry and excellence is not a destination but a deeply personal journey,” said Dr. Stepniak during his introduction of Marsalis during the event. “He’s on such a journey, and observing him from afar, I see in him not only a voracious thirst for learning but also those dual qualities we find in the best of artists — self-acceptance and self-criticism. Importantly, that self-criticism combines an intolerance for the second-rate with an extraordinary regard for collaboration and the dignity of all in our society.
“Indeed, through his educational work, writings and performances, he has revealed uniquely powerful messages about jazz — that even, above all else, it may uniquely teach respect and trust, can reveal wounds in this society and pathways to healing, can call us to honestly engage with each other as our true selves. He speaks, to put it simply, from a place of profound passion, concern and awareness; and in bringing his all to the task of his life’s work, he has a clarity that enables him to look at young artists with a wise, caring gaze.”
While in Winchester, Marsalis took some time to work with students from John Kerr Elementary School’s West African Drumming Ensemble. He also led a Big Band Jazz Clinic, working exclusively with the National Jazz Workshop All-Star Jazz Orchestra and the Shenandoah Conservatory Jazz Ensemble.
“When I was growing up, and I’m sure it’s still prevalent today, high school orchestras played Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, the concert band played Vaughan-Williams and Holst, and the Jazz band played whatever the director has written or some jazz-funk or jazz-rock tunes. This band, however, was well-prepared and also very easy to work with,” said Marsalis of the NJW All-Star Jazz Orchestra in his Jan. 24 Facebook post.
The NJW All-Star Jazz Orchestra is an outgrowth of the conservatory’s summer National Jazz Workshop. It is an audition-based ensemble comprised of students aged 15 to 22 in the Washington, D.C., area and is under the direction of Jazz Composer-in-Residence and Adjunct Associate Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies Alan Baylock ’90, M.M. The Shenandoah Conservatory Jazz Ensemble is under the direction of Auxiliary Adjunct Associate Professor of Jazz and Trumpet Craig Fraedrich, M.M.
View a slideshow of the event below.