Swing Out! brings in 300 school children for jazz show-and-tell
The Charleston Music Hall tremored Friday morning with the sounds of swing and bossa nova, designed to inspire young students, 4-17 years old, from numerous area schools.
It was the inaugural Swing Out! Youth Program offered by the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, and it drew about 300 children from Charleston County schools, along with their band teachers and chaperones.
Sponsored by Toyota of Charleston, Wells Fargo, Charleston Place Hotel and the Gullah Roots Project, the program showcased big band jazz and featured guest artist Etienne Charles, who leads the Latin Night concerts on tap for tonight.
Charles said introducing children to jazz is a musician’s obligation, since it teaches them not only about style and sound, but national and cultural identity.
“To me it’s one of the most important parts of keeping the legacy of jazz going, because the younger they get to hear the sounds and see the instruments and see musicians, is the sooner that we have a chance to get them involved and get them as a part of the family,” he said.
“I think it’s more important than we know, because you never know what it can do for them.”
CJO Director Charlton Singleton, who has taught middle school band, knows Charleston County School District children well.
“Unfortunately, a lot of these students have never been to a show of any sort,” Singleton said. The outreach effort, then, is critical if jazz is to be shared with younger generations.
Some in the big band are teachers themselves, at colleges and public schools, he said. So hosting young students for a jazz show-and-tell makes sense.
“It’s a natural fit,” he said.
On stage, Singleton explained how jazz in Charleston started in the 1890s with young students who improvised marches and soon became the internationally acclaimed Jenkins Orphanage Band. Charles explained what swing and bossa nova were, demonstrating the different foundational rhythms.
Charleston Grille General Manager Mickey Bakst, who helped coordinate the event and arranged to feed the students lunch, could not restrain his enthusiasm, calling the players in the Jazz Orchestra the city’s “best musical ambassadors.”
“This is, like, the coolest thing ever!” Bakst said.