It's not every day that local student musicians can witness and participate with nationally
acclaimed musicians. Last week's two-day Jazz Festival at ECSU was indeed a rare event
for Northeastern High School and Elizabeth City State University students.
On April 14, the United States Navy Commodores Jazz Ensemble, the Navy's premier jazz
band, brought the best of big band jazz music to Elizabeth City. Their talent has
led them to perform for public concerts and jazz festivals across the country. The
musicians write and arrange much of the music performed on stage. Best of all, their
performances are free of charge.
On April 15, the audience paid a modest fee to hear saxophonist Marcus Anderson lead
those high school and college students through a stunning night of jazz and R & B
music. Anderson tours with Prince now but has opened concerts for a wide range of
pop artists and recorded his own music. Earlier in the afternoon, Anderson held a
clinic for the students. Douglas Jackson, a professor in the ECSU Department of Visual
and Performing Arts, said those are crucial experiences that students need to excel
as future musicians.
"Our clinic was the educational component of the festival, just as the festival is
an extension of my classroom. I always ask our guests to present a clinic because
this gives them and our students an opportunity to interact," Jackson said.
"This year the focus of the festival was the saxophone. Marcus demonstrated the instrument,
took the instruments apart and explained the kinesiology associated with playing the
saxophone. He did the same with his flute and his electronic instrument.
"As an instructor, Jackson was particularly fond of a unique demonstration by Anderson
who played the same notes over two different styles of music as evidence of how the
elements of musical work together. During the festival, Anderson transitioned from
jazz to pop and R & B music that soared on music charts in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Much
of that music still easily lures an audience on radio stations and internet sites
"As an educator it is important for me to reflect on those pop and R&B favorites by
Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind and Fire, so students realize how one style of music
influences the next. That music was an antecedent to today's hip-hop and neo-soul
music," Jackson said.
"Students need to witness the flawless execution of live, experienced musicians. They
need to have opportunities to ask questions and see repeated demonstrations of musical
techniques. Then, their education is instantly extended from the classroom," Jackson
said. "We want more area parents to make sure student musicians come here and take
advantage of these free clinics. Customarily, we extend the invitations to all regional
Wayne James, the band instructor at Northeastern High School (NHS) and a skillful
trumpeter agrees the jazz festival sessions are valuable experiences for area youth
musicians. He recommends music instruction for youths because it enhances self-discipline.
Nine NHS current students and two graduates performed with the ECSU Jazz Ensemble.
"My students were thoroughly impressed with Mr. Anderson who inspired and encouraged
them to practice even more. They learned some different practice techniques and how
to interpret the sound of jazz," James said.
Best of all, James said, the jazz festival was a success because it brought "a lot
of people together" to enjoy outstanding musicians.