Articles: Jazz Celebration at Metro State




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Jenni Grubbs
Special to

Mike Cryer is excited.

The non-traditional African-American Metro State music major is all worked up over three days when he will lug instruments from room to room, hour-after-hour.

He is also all worked up over three days when he will get to watch and listen to some of the United States’ best jazz musicians, along with his classmates and potential future classmates from high schools around the state.

But, probably the best part for him will be playing his trombone with Metro State’s Monday Night Jazz Band in front of hundreds when the Jazz Celebration at Metro State hits downtown Denver April 15-17 in the Kenneth King Center.

The Jazz Celebration will bring seven jazz "Greats," including guitarist Larry Coryell, trumpeter Greg Gisbert, trombonist Eric Goletz, pianist Jim Ridl, Latin percussionist Gary Sosias, vocal jazz group The New York Voices and the United States Air Force Falconaires, and more than 2,000 students from 90 middle and high schools to the Auraria Campus, according to Celebration’s student producer, Jason Justice.

"Each year we try to have a mix of major international headliner stars and educators," Justice says.

This will be the festival’s third year. "We’ve really grown," Justice says. "It’s an extraordinary event that just keeps getting bigger."

"What I really like about it is it exposes people to jazz," says Cryer, who has been playing trombone for about 20 years.

He says it is starting to put Metro State "on the map." Cryer says he likes seeing what jazz groups around the state are doing, seeing how far jazz has come in public schools. Seeing the New York Voices ("I’ve heard they’re ea very good vocal jazz group.") will be a highlight for Cryer, but he is especially excited to see trombonist Goletz.

Justice says that it is important to him to make sure that all of the musical families are represented by the headlining performers for just that reason.

The schedule is pretty hectic, with high school and middle school bands practicing, learning and playing each day from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Along the way, there are Master Classes with the stars and a concert in the afternoon.

Then in the evening there is a major concert. On Thursday, that concert is free to the public and will feature the New York Voices and the Falconaires. Friday night is the gala night, with performances by the Denver School of the Arts Big Band, the Monday Night Jazz Band, and five major stars. Saturday night is a salsa/Latin jazz concert.

"It should be a big whoop couple of nights," Metro State music department chair Walter Barr says.

Friday and Saturday’s concerts cost $15 general admission ($10 for students and seniors) and one of the services Metro State is providing is getting Stray Dog Studios to offer the students performing DVDs and still photos of their performances for a $25 and $15.

But the point of the Jazz Celebration is not to make money, Justice says, with Barr adding that it is primarily a philanthropic venture, operating on grants and sponsorships from Denver radio station 89.3 KUVO, Frontier Airlines, Kolachy Music Co. and Dazzle Nightclub.

"This Celebration is all about the kid who goes to West High School getting on the 16 bus and coming down and playing in a major festival," Justice says.

He says has a memory from his first year with the festival that reminds him of that.

"I was running around and I came into the concert hall and I stopped to watch. Two adjudicators were playing with kids. Those two kids had learned more in playing 10 minutes with adjudicators than they did all year. The change is amazing and immediate."

It’s "the kind of festival I will I could have played when I was their age," Justice says.

However, that is not an isolated memory, he says.

"There’ve been 100 special moments like that since."

He says when it actually happens, the festival will be "crazy!"

"It’s the coolest thing to be looking down (from the flyover in the King Center) and see five-to-six bands, a cluster of people, just packed," Justice says.

Barr says, "Part of it is the vibrancy of the kids learning… everything is infused with an electric feeling."

Cryer will no doubt take part in that feeling, working, watching and playing in the Jazz Celebration at Metro State.

If You Go:

Jazz Celebration at Metro State

Who: 7 stars of jazz, 2000 high school, middle school and college students, and YOU

What: festival celebrating jazz music in the heart of downtown

When: April 15-17, Starts at 8 a.m., with big evening concerts at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Kenneth King Center on the Auraria Campus in Denver

Cost: Friday and Saturday night concerts are $15 general admission or $10 for students and seniors. Other events are free.


Thursday, April 15
Master Classes
11:15-12:15 – Jim Ridl, Piano
12:30-1:30 – New York Voices
4:15-5:15 – Afternoon Concert: Ellyn Rucker
7:30 – Free! Evening Concert: Metro State Jazz Voices, New York Voices, United States Air Force Band of the Rockies; The Falconaires

Friday, April 16
Master Classes
10-11 Greg Gisbert and Eric Goletz, Brass Sectional
12:30-1:30 – Larry Coryell, Guitar
1:45-2:45 – Women in Jazz
3-4 – Gary Sosias
4:15-5:15 – Afternoon Concert: Fred Hess, Mark Sabatella
7:30 – $15/$10 Gala Evening Concert: Denver School of the Arts Big Band, MSCD Monday Night Jazz Band, Larry Coryell, Greg Gisbert, Gary Sosias, Eric Goletz, Jim Ridl

Saturday, April 17
Master Classes
12:30-1:30 – Eric Goletz, Trombone
1:45-2:45 – Larry Coryell, Jim Ridl, Kenny Walker, Paul Romaine, Rhythm Sectional
3-4 – Ron Miles, Hugh Ragin, Greg Gisbert, Walter Barr, Trumpet Summit
4:15-5:15 – Afternoon Concert: Gary Sosias with the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts Salsa Band
7:30 – Evening Concert: Latin jazz and salsa with Metro State Faculty Jazz Group and Gary Sosias, Larry Coryell, Greg Gisbert, Eric Goletz, Jim Ridl

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