Washington, D.C. --
The Airmen of Note are looking back on a very busy 2017, complete with two major tours, a successful Jazz Heritage Series with 3 guest artists, a new studio album release, a busy summer concert series, and also the annual flash mob and holiday concert series. Even though the band is eager for some holiday rest and time to recharge, they have also been getting ready for the jazz world’s biggest education event right at the start of 2018 - the JEN Conference!
The Jazz Education Network hosts an annual event where jazz artists, educators, students and fans can come together to perform, take part in panel discussions, master classes, workshops and, as their website says, “Hang!” Going into its tenth year, JEN supports jazz and music education through three main avenues: advancing education, developing audiences and promoting performance. Having been to several conferences before my tenure in the Airmen of Note, I can attest that the walls are bursting at each year’s event. I’ve witnessed, in the same halls, Wynton Marsalis giving a lecture on American values in the arts, an elementary school big band performance, and a discussion on saxophone mouthpiece design. The planners of these annual galas let out all the stops, programming 4 days of events for everyone. Therein lies some of jazz’s universal appeal - there is so much variety within one American art form that almost anyone can find something they find interesting!
The United States military jazz ensembles have a long tradition of appearing at the JEN conference, and before JEN, its predecessor, IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educators). This year, the “Note” has the honor of not only performing, but also taking part in several pedagogical events. They will certainly be busy, giving clinics geared towards music students as well as educators eager to glean tools from a big band that lives and breathes together almost daily. In addition to these workshop-style clinics, the Note will be performing new music, both as part of the Young Composers Showcase and a public reading session.
The main concert performance will be extra special for the band, as they get to reconnect with Stefon Harris, a world-renowned vibraphonist who was a guest performer with the Note in the fall of 2015. This concert also required some preparation throughout the holiday season, as Mr. Harris’ repertoire includes some of his challenging compositions as well as music from the pens of Wayne Shorter, Stevie Wonder and Horace Silver.
While performing for an audience comprised almost entirely of jazz musicians can be daunting, there is a sense of community, knowing all are there to celebrate this great American art form. The Note’s new pianist, Technical Sergeant Chris Ziemba says, “To perform for one’s peers in the field, that’s a special treat for us. I’m very excited to be able to perform at the only national convention for jazz music in front of some of the biggest names and then be able to hear those same people give a performance or clinic. It is sure to be inspiring.” Discerning ears offer both a challenge for perfection and a welcome feeling of respect for the music and its tradition. Trombonist, Technical Sergeant Kevin Cerovich notes, “It’s always an honor to represent the Air Force anytime the Airmen of Note is performing throughout the world. The JEN conference is even more exciting, however, as it’s a chance to represent the excellence of all Airmen to an audience who is wholeheartedly devoted to the style of music we play.”
As 2017 comes to a close, the Note can look back on a rewarding year of performances, community outreach events, clinics and recordings. With several new members, the future looks bright; and, the JEN conference will be a wonderful way to start another chapter in the band’s long legacy.