New York City High School Singers to Join the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra, 3/23
On Sunday, March 23 at 3:00 p.m. in Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, high school singers from across New York City and young artists from the recently launched Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra (JLCYO) will join together to perform works from Duke Ellington's celebrated Sacred Music concerts. The afternoon's performance is led by jazz composer, arranger, and recognized authority on the music of Duke Ellington and the Swing era David Berger, along with special guest soloists alto Lalah Hathaway, baritone Rufus Bond Jr., soprano Nicole Cabell, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, trumpeter and composer Sean Jones, trombonist and JLYCO Director Vincent Gardner, and tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith.
In fall 2013, Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute (WMI), in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center, put together its first-ever jazz-focused creative learning project, which included rehearsals with student singers and instrumentalists over the course of seven months. Workshops included a daylong exploration of jazz vocal technique and improvisation as well as creative sessions with composers and songwriters throughout the city inspired by the aspirational messages of Ellington's music.
The New York City choirs brought together by WMI and participating in the March 23 performance include the community youth choir Songs of Solomon, and choirs from Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music, Forest Hills High School, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Talent Unlimited High School, and Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts. Well-known gospel singer and pianist Damien Sneed, who also serves as choral preparer on the project, led workshops at each school throughout the project.
Additionally, WMI teaching artists have also worked with young composers from three of the participating high schools as well as with young people engaged in activities at sites connected with Carnegie Hall's Musical Connections, a program that provides free musical events ranging from concerts to songwriting and composition workshops for people in need across New York City. These creative sessions were focused on the theme of "affirmation," which is central to Ellington's sacred music. Also, WMI's online community for young musicians, Musical Exchange, hosted Arranging Ellington, a project that encouraged young composers to create new arrangements of recordings and scores from Ellington's sacred repertoire. Select compositions from these composition projects will be performed at a private Carnegie Hall concert on Sunday, March 30 at 4:00 p.m. in Zankel Hall.
Tying together elements of jazz, blues, choral, and classical music with African-American spirituals and gospel, Duke Ellington's Sacred Music crossed the lines dividing secular and religious musical genres, while punctuating the ever-expanding role of jazz in America and throughout the world. Ellington composed three programs of sacred music, and, in his lifetime, each was performed once-the first at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in 1965; the second at St. John the Divine in New York City in 1968; and the last at Westminster Abbey in London in 1973. Following these historic concerts, Ellington called the performances, "the most important thing I have ever done."
In recent seasons, Carnegie Hall has offered large-scale creative learning projects in which New York City high school students explore great musical works, preparing for a culminating concert in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, while working with a professional orchestra, professional soloists, and a well-known conductor. These intensive projects are designed to nurture and showcase exemplary student work through multiple months of rehearsal and preparation, elevating student performance to a professional level, and creating transformational experiences for all involved. Past projects have included The Rite of Spring Project (November 2007), The Bernstein Mass Project (December 2008), Too Hot to Handel (November 2010), The Carmina Burana Choral Project (February 2012), and La Pasión según San Marcos (March 2013).
The Weill Music Institute creates visionary programs that embody Carnegie Hall's commitment to music education. With unparalleled access to the world's greatest artists, the Weill Music Institute inspires audiences of all ages, nurtures tomorrow's musical talent, and harnesses the power of music to make a meaningful difference in people's lives. An integral part of Carnegie Hall's concert season, these programs facilitate creative expression, develop musical skills and capacities at all levels, and encourage participants to make lifelong personal connections to music. The Weill Music Institute generates new knowledge through original research and shares a wide range of free online resources with educators and music lovers around the globe. More than 400,000 people each year engage in the Weill Music Institute's programs through national and international partnerships, in New York City schools and community settings, and at Carnegie Hall.