Cab Calloway's JazzChords Choir and Jazz Lab Band returned from Disney World this past Monday with some great memories. JazzChords director Marty Lassman reported on the trip:
This was the first plane flight for some students. This was a great, positive, first experience for them. They experienced the joy of checking bags, airline security checks and, for some, the loss of baggage by the airline.
This long weekend needed to have educational experiences but there also needed to be time to experience ‘the happiest place on earth’ and there was a wealth of time for both!
Some students swam in the hotel’s pool when we first arrived on Thursday afternoon; it was in the low 60’s but the pool was heated. Others rushed to the park for two hours until our opening ceremonies where we were introduced to the three vocal judges, three instrumental judges, three instrumental clinicians and four young professional performers. Disney does things right! These were nationally known - some internationally known - clinicians and performers. Then all the judges, clinicians and performers presented a concert and our students were overwhelmingly inspired by their playing and singing. One student said to me, "You tell us when we improvise, to sound like a sax or a trumpet or a trombone. Now I get it!"
Because our hotel was on the Disneyworld campus, we were able to take advantage of extended hours in the Magic Kingdom that night with fewer crowds and shorter lines!
Friday began with the JazzChords performing for the judges while the Jazz Lab had some free time in the park. We also stayed to listen to a jazz choir from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Following that, the JazzChords had time in the park while the Jazz Lab performed. Both groups had a few free hours ion the park and some singers took advantage of the fabulous American Idol Experience where they went through the same process that the participants on American Idol do. Several of our students got as far as the semi-final round!
Friday night, we attended a private reception where we ate wings and egg rolls and listened to and danced to one of the Disney professional ensembles playing standard jazz tunes. Following that, we were led to a private area to see the spectacular Images of Earth firework spectacular at Epcot. Epcot was open to us late that night so again we had shorter wait lines at rides.
Saturday was intense with workshops. First the vocalists, brass, rhythm and woodwinds had their own clinics. Next, our students attended a ‘conversation’ with the young professional artists where they could see what path their lives took and our students could ask questions of them. Finally, there was a jam session with the professionals, clinicians and our students. Asher Denberg (9) and Gregory Dexter (8) were chosen as the pianist and drummer for the entire session! Several of our students were able to ‘jam’ (improvise) with such greats as Dr. Willie Hill, Chris Vadala and these up and coming professionals. At the end of the session, Butch Miles gave Greg a private drum lesson on brush technique. Wow!
After an afternoon in the park, we gathered one last time for the evening awards ceremony. The awards look like ‘platinum’ records ... but with Mickey Mouse ears! Dr. Cannon and I were congratulated by Mickey himself, Asher won an award as the outstanding accompanist and Darrell Patterson won an award as the outstanding vocal soloist.
This was an amazing and incomparable educational experience for me and our students. Based upon the student and parent chaperone reaction to the educational and fun aspects of this trip, we are certainly going to repeat the experience as soon as possible!