Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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Atlanta’s Top Musicians
Hold Summer Jazz Camp

2010 June 9

JOA's Summer Jazz Camp 2009

While Jazz Orchestra Atlanta’s summer jazz camp won’t make up for those schools across metro Atlanta that are cutting band and orchestra programs, it will give students the opportunity to play with professional jazz musicians and study music in a college setting.

Students rising in grades eight through 12 will be able to study and play jazz at camp held at Georgia State University June 21-25 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sponsored by Jazz Orchestra Atlanta, a nonprofit that supports music education and jazz performances, camp will offer classes in jazz theory, improvisation and the music business and will provide information on college jazz programs around the country.

“We will offer students a jazz experience they don’t get in their schools,” said Brent Runnels, executive and artistic director of JOA. “In a relaxed and supportive environment, students will practice, rehearse, read music and perform alongside some of the best professional musicians in Atlanta.”

Instructors will include Runnels, an award-winning classical and jazz pianist; the coordinator of jazz studies at GSU, Gordon Vernick, who has played with Randy Brecker and Paul McCandless; drummer Justin Varnes, who has toured with Phoebe Snow and recorded with several jazz greats in New York; GSU saxophone instructor Mace Hibbard, who has performed with Marcus Roberts and Susan Tedeschi, as well as on The Derek Trucks Grammy Award-winning album, “Already Free;” and GSU instructor and bassist Robert Dickson, who has performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Terri Lynne Carrington.

Although Forrest Cobb had played flute in the Westminster Jazz band for three years, he didn’t know how to improvise on the first day of jazz camp last year.

But by the end of the week that changed.

Cobb said, “I had figured out what notes were in a chord and how to improvise using them.  I realized there is a structure underneath what is written, and now I can interpret that.”

Cobb says he also learned about creating “color” and “dissonance” in the music, and how to “resolve” the end of a tune so it sounds smooth, yet still interesting.

“We’re going to address all styles of jazz and take students as they are with their interests and move them forward in those areas,” said Runnels. “We’re taking early intermediate to advanced-level musicians and providing them with structure, inspiration, motivation, technical training and a chance to play in front of a crowd.”

On Thursday evening, June 24, students will jam at a yet undisclosed downtown restaurant and will present a big band concert Friday, June 25 at 2 p.m. at the GSU Aderhold Learning Center.

Now in its eighth year, JOA is still accepting students for its summer jazz camp. For more information, visit Jazz Orchestra Atlanta.

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