June 26, 2017

The 10th Anniversary Jazz Drama Program Benefit will honor Bob Stewart

BobStewartA celebration of the work of The Jazz Drama Program hosted by WQXR’s Terrance McKnight and honoring jazz musician and educator Bob Stewart, will be held at 6 PM on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at Cornelia Street Cafe.

Featuring intimate performances by Bob Stewart on tuba as well as pianist John Kamitsuka, violinist Sara Caswell and JDP Alumnus Shantaysha Peprah, now a student at the famed Berklee College of Music. Musical selections include pieces by Bach and Prokovief, as well as classic blues and songs from our hit musical Holding the Torch for Liberty, a story about women’s suffrage, and previews of our up-coming musical Message from Saturn, about the healing power of the blues.

Open bar and hors d’oevres will be served.

Tickets to this exclusive event are extremely limited and can be purchased for $125 by check or Paypal. $75 of your ticket price is tax deductible. Each ticket holder will receive a copy of a Jazz Drama Program CD. We thank-you for supporting the work of The Jazz Drama Program, Jazz Arts for a Better World!

More details…

Louie’s Dream CD Released

Louie's DreamEli Yamin, pianist, jazz & blues ambassador and composer of jazz musicals teams up with New Orleans-based clarinetist Evan Christopher, for a salute to their jazz heroes including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Sidney Bechet and Mary Lou Williams.

From jazz clubs to concert halls and even the White House, the intuitive and playful spark they bring to the bandstand is always marked with passion and dynamic interplay. Yamin and Christopher share a deep commitment to celebrating the enduring legacy and relevance of the greats who inspire them. Yet, even though aural glimpses of their heroes are evident, their dedication to their own personal voices is abundant in this collection of thoughtfully chosen songs.

“Louie’s Dream”, is a song recorded only one other time by Louis Armstrong with cocomposer Marty Napolean on piano, the last surviving member of the Armstrong All-Stars. Other selections include “The Mooche” for Barney Bigard and the Ellingtonians, “What’s Your Story Morning Glory?” for Mary Lou Williams, “Baraka 75”, a spiky Yamin original dedicated to poet/activist Amiri Baraka, and “You Gotta Treat It Gentle”, Christopher’s bluesy ballad for Sidney Bechet.  Two songs from Yamin’s jazz musical about women’s suffrage, Holding the Torch for Liberty, are also featured – the New Orleans flavored “It’s the Way That You Talk” and the heartstring-pulling ballad, “Don’t Go Back On Your Raisin’”. Two Ellington rarities, “Azalea” and “Dancers in Love” round out the collection.

The CD is available from Amazon, iTunes or CD Baby.

Jammin’ with Yamin Lewiston Tribune Clipping

Lewiston Tribune Jammin' with Yamin-page1Lewiston Tribune Jammin' with Yamin-page2

Jammin’ with Yamin Argonaut Clipping

Argonaut Jammin' with Yamin-page

Summer Gala a Great Success!

Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our Gala Chair, Kristy Nguyen, and everyone supporting her, the Summer Gala, held at Urban Stages on June 3, was a great success. We raised close to seven thousand dollars for the cause and more importantly had a great celebration and gathering with all generations in celebration of Holding the Torch for Liberty and energizing everyone with the possibilities for the future.

The students gave a magnificent performance, showing even more progress and growth since they participated in the CD recording session. We heard words of great eloquence from our special guest Mercedes Ellington, a gracious and inspiring acceptance from our Jazz Masters Award recipient, Dr. Rodriguez, and were joined by the incomparable Roberta Flack! What an amazing afternoon it was.

Again, thank you everyone for your support for our cause. Let’s keep this ball rolling–more kids — more jazz — more stories — stronger communities.

Summer Gala Announced

The Jazz Drama Program Summer Gala Announced

The Jazz Drama Program
Eli Yamin, Artistic Director

Holding the Torch for Liberty recording session with the band

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Holding the Torch for Liberty recording session with JDP singers

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To listen to the music from the new CD

The Jazz Drama Program Summer Gala
Sunday, June 3, 2-5 pm
Urban Stages, NYC


A celebration of the work of The Jazz Drama Program with Artistic Director Eli Yamin, special guest Mercedes Ellington and honoring Dr. William Rodriguez, Latin Jazz Pianist, Principal and founder of Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music.

Featuring a live performance of scenes and songs from Holding the Torch for Liberty, the jazz musical about women’s suffrage by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson, with choreography by Shireen Dickson and performed by rising stars from Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music.

Refreshments and a champagne toast!

Tickets to this exclusive event are extremely limited and can be purchased for $100 at www.thejazzdramaprogram.org. Refreshments will be served before and after the performance and each ticket holder will receive a copy of the Cast CD of Holding the Torch for Liberty, signed by the authors.

Holding the Torch for Liberty CD Cover

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About the Cast CD of Holding the Torch for Liberty:

Professional jazz musicians from New Orleans, Columbia University and Jazz at Lincoln Center combine forces with bright young talent from Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music to record a CD of Holding the Torch for Liberty, the jazz musical about women’s suffrage. With story, music and lyrics by jazz musician Eli Yamin and teacher Clifford Carlson, this musical uses ragtime, classic blues and New Orleans style music to tell the story of women fighting for and winning the right to vote in 1920.

About The Jazz Drama Program:

The Jazz Drama Program is the non-profit company founded in 2003 to bring jazz to young people and get them involved. With over 64 performances in 4 states and 2 countries and licensing of the show available through Theatrical Rights Worldwide, The Jazz Drama Program is poised to make Holding the Torch for Liberty a national sensation through community based productions around the U.S. and abroad in this presidential election year.

“The hippest move in jazz education, ever.”
– JazzTimes

“Thank you Eli for the wonderful experience you have allowed our students to have with the Jazz Drama Program and the recording at Avatar Studios. I share your vision and dream to have students experience music and apply its force to guide them through life.”
– Dr. William Rodriguez, Principal Celia Cruz H.S.

“Pianist Eli Yamin is a communicator who believes jazz can foster a sense of community. His work is expansive and extroverted, populist in the best sense.”
– George Kanzler, All About Jazz New York

“I have to congratulate you … for your creative approach.”
– Dave Brubeck, pianist/composer

The Summer Gala

When: Sunday, June 3, 2pm

Where: Urban Stages
259 West 30th Street (bet 7th and 8th Avenues)
New York, NY 10001

How: Tickets are $100 for reception and performance, $75 is tax-deductible contribution to The Jazz Drama Program, a 501 c3 non profit organization.

For more information: The Jazz Drama Program
Phone 917-640-3377 or email: info@thejazzdramaprogram.org

Exhilarating Jazz Appreciation Month 2011 In Beautiful Montenegro

by Virgil Mihaiu

F. Scott Fitzgerald, the writer who coined the term Jazz Age, mentioned “little Montenegro” in his masterpiece The Great Gatsby (published almost simultaneously with the first hearing of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue). In 2006 that country reemerged on the world’s map. Its tiny size stands in sharp contrast to its endless natural beauty.

But Montenegro also strives to display artistic potential. As has been proven by jazz’s developments during the last half of a century or so, this kind of music is capable of transfiguring the postmodern ethos of various nations into unprecedented sound-aesthetics. Therefore, despite being inhabited by only less than 700,000 people, the old/new country has been acting fast in this respect. Montenegro’s jazz community has found an adequate organizational body in the Jazz Art Association, based in the capital city of Podgorica. Founded by Maja Popovic in 2009, JAM had a catalytic effect upon musicians, educators, scholars, spectators, through concerts, workshops, festivals, teaching, mass media promotion, etc.

This year’s main guests were the members of the New York based Eli Yamin Quartet. An apt choice, given their individual improvisational skills, ample stylistic horizons, versatility,
homogeneity, and pure joy of communicating with the spectators. And, mind you, the latter were as enthusiastic as any East European jazz buffs. The quartet’s recital began with a paraphrase of the uplifting theme O svjetla majska zora (a folkloric melody whose arrangement by Zarko Mirkovic has been turned into the Montenegrin anthem), in alternation with swing passages evoking the origins of jazz. Most of the pieces were imbued by jazz basics, such as blues, gospel, swing, bebop, with inborn hints to rhythm-and-blues or rock&roll. Pianist/vocalist Eli Yamin didn’t make a secret out of his admiration for Ellington, and truly produced some referential soloing in the vein of his maestro, whilst in other outings he went the entire spectrum from feather light pointillism to heavy-duty ostinati. In the case of alto sax-player Zaid Nasser the major influence came from Sonny Stitt, but the fleetness of his interpretation evinced due respect for Charlie Parker. Bassist Ari Roland’s originality resides in always doing his (very consistent) solos con arco – i.e., using only the bow – while for the accompanying passages he resorted to the customary walking-bass pizzicato. Drummer LaFrae Sci was an alert rhythm propeller, and – in her improvisations – she always managed to suggest melodies and harmonies only through sensitive percussion accents. A nice gesture from the musicians was to dedicate the piece Just One to Maja Popovic, indeed the irreplaceable creator of this beautiful feast.

Eli Yamin’s Quartet engendered similar enthusiastic response from the audience in two other performances: at the charming Royal Theatre in the ancient Montenegrin capital Cetinje  (situated under Mount Lovcen, on whose peak 19th century king & poet Njegos lies in his mausoleum, designed by the great sculpturer Ivan Mestrovic), and at Porto Montenegro/Yacht Club in Tivat, on the country’s fabulous Riviera.

In fact, what impressed me most in Montenegro – besides the eternal natural beauty – were the vitality, young energy and artistic potential of its rather scant population. Such features were properly revealed by the culmination of the Jazz Appreciation Month 2011: the European premiere of the jazz musical Nora’s Ark composed by Eli Yamin and written by Clifford Carlson. That play had been conceived, about a decade ago, as part of The Jazz Drama Program, a NY based nonprofit organization which strives to use musical theatre as a way to engage middle school students and introduce them to jazz music, as well as explore topics that are relevant to them. Premiered in 2000, Nora’s Ark is based on a funny scenario about a scientist named Nora who predicts the flooding of the Earth. Rescuing the animals at the Bronx Zoo, Nora and her daughters rent a cruise ship. It seems all are saved, except that daughter Fitzi forgets to bring food. Fortunately, all animals discover that freedom is a greater sustaining force than food, and ultimately cooperate in finding an edible solution. The “educational aim” of the play was to tell a tale about living harmoniously, working together and empathizing with others. But its major gain is, by far, the musical one.

Maja Popovic had the commendable idea of re-creating this swinging and youthful musical play on Montenegrin soil, involving Eli Yamin’s Quartet for the instrumental part, and at least 50 youngsters, pupils of Podgorica’s Vasa Pavic School of Music & Ballet, to whom the choral and vocal solo parts were assigned, plus some simpatico in-between stage movement. Obviously, the grand choir – excellently coordinated by Mira Popovic – had to study its score in advance. Yet the more challenging aspect of this long-distance collaboration occurred during the first week of Jazz Appreciation Month 2011, when the American instrumentalists and their Montenegrin alumni met for daily rehearsals. Considering the brief amount of time allowed for these on-the-spot workshops, the results were amazing: on April 7th 2011, the overcrowded hall of KIC Podgorica witnessed an exhilarating performance, with dozens of teen-agers and children singing in English so naturally as if they had been a part of the show’s previous representations in Santa Fe, Moscow/Idaho, New York and other American cities. There was admirable coordination among the performers of this jazz musical for children (a work due to become a reference in the field). Fact is that the author never lowered the musical standard of his composition. On the contrary, he raised his young disciples to the condition of lively participants to the singing & swinging on-stage-adventures (by the way: the show ought to be repeated in a larger space, allowing better “mass movements”; to my mind, it would also deserve to be “exported” to Western countries, as a proof of this little nations artistic capacities). Eli Yamin has employed here his vast knowledge as pianist, singer, educator, showman, and has creatively processed the traditions that once made the glory of the American musical, dating as far back as the Jazz Age. This is a real service to America’s greatest contribution to contemporary arts: spreading the message of jazz music throughout the world. As the musician himself confessed, during the elated aftermath of the show: “We felt the spirit of jazz when we arrived in Podgorica.” The public’s tremendous reaction just confirmed that statement.

Nora’s Ark CD is Released

Nora’s Ark, the jazz musical CD is released
To Meet Growing Demand of Schools Licensing Play

New York, NY—On November 10th, 2010 at the Bank Street College auditorium, The Jazz Drama Program (http://www.thejazzdramaprogram.org/) celebrated the release of their new CD, Nora’s Ark, the jazz musical, which features music from their play of the same name. The play utilizes the method that the New York based nonprofit organization developed, which uses musical theater as a way to engage middle school students and introduce them to jazz music as well as explore topics and themes that are relevant to them. Donors, supporters and performers from past productions were all invited to celebrate with the Jazz Drama Program and were treated to a live performance of musical selections from the CD as well as to a premiere screening of a short documentary on the making of the CD.

It has been a long journey for co-founder / Artistic Director Eli Yamin and co-founder / educator Clifford Carlson. The journey began as an idea in 1998 through a Meet the Composer-New Music for Schools Grant awarded to jazz composer Eli Yamin and monies from The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. That year saw the premiere of the first jazz musical composed by Yamin and written by sixth grade teacher Clifford Carlson. The resulting effort, When Malindy Swings, based on a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, as performed by students in the drama and music programs at the Louis Armstrong Middle School in Queens was a smash success.

Since then, the prolific duo has developed four more original jazz musicals including Nora’s Ark. In 2003, The Jazz Drama Program officially incorporated with a mission to spread this unique concept to other schools and received its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status in September of 2004.

First premiered in 2000, Nora’s Ark is about a scientist named Nora who predicts the melting of the poles and the flooding of the Earth. Rescuing the animals at the Bronx Zoo, Nora and her daughters Dora, Flora, Lora and Fitzi rent a cruise ship. It seems all are saved, except that daughter Fitzi forgets to bring food. Fortunately, all animals discover that freedom is a greater sustaining force than food and ultimately cooperate in finding an edible solution. The context of the play was to tell a tale about living harmoniously, working together and empathizing with others.

Eli Yamin shared lessons learned from these productions to other educators and community leaders at various music workshops as a case study. Parts of Nora’s Ark were used as participatory exercises to illustrate how the program worked. The enthusiastic response to the workshop by attendees led to interest in schools outside of New York to put on Nora’s Ark for their students. Because of this increased demand nationwide, it became clear that a musical teaching tool was needed to better serve as an aid, hence the need for a CD with recorded tracks that can be used in the production.

Jeannette LoVetri, Eli Yamin, Dianne Berkun

Jeannette LoVetri, Eli Yamin, Dianne Berkun

Among the 50 attendees at the CD release party was Jeannette LoVetri, Director of The Voice Workshop and veteran singing voice specialist, who had been following Eli Yamin’s Jazz Drama Program activities over the years. Ms. LoVetri was well acquainted with Dianne Berkun, Artistic Director and Founder of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy, and was trying to have her collaborate with Eli on a project. When it came time to record the CD, Ms. LoVetri was adamant that trained children singers should be used as a model of how young singers can sound. It was a wise choice and turned out to be a fruitful collaboration.

“I had been trying to get Dianne and Eli to work together for the last three years. Now, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus will be performing songs from Nora’s Ark in a concert in May,” said Ms. LoVetri.

The CD contains 16-tracks of music from the play and features the Eli Yamin Jazz Quintet and singers from the Grammy® Award winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy. In preparation for recording the music for Nora’s Ark, rehearsals were scheduled once a week for four consecutive weeks in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy with great support from Dianne Berkun. The recording session took place on March 6 and 7, 2010 at Avatar Studios (http://avatarstudios.net/) with generous support from the studio and from top jazz recording engineer Jim Anderson. The first day was spent recording the band. The second day was spent recording the vocalists. The result was a professionally produced CD with quality recordings reflecting the fact that the play and the concept were of high quality. To add the final touch, Daryl Long provided a lovely illustration for the cover.

The recording process over the two days spent in the studio was captured on videotape and was made into a short documentary called “Nora’s Ark: Enriching Children’s Lives” directed by Jason Scadron, edited by Michael Farkas and written by Kirk Imamura (also President of Avatar Studios). The 20-minute documentary was screened for the first time at the CD release party. It is also available for viewing at vimeo.com (http://vimeo.com/12326961).

“The enthusiasm and devotion these young people from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus have brought to Nora’s Ark, show us again, how jazz inspires and excites young people. We are so grateful to Dianne Berkun and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Jazz Singers for joining with us on this jazz journey to make the music available to youth all over America and all over the world.”

The Jazz Drama Program licenses Nora’s Ark to schools and provides material for the theatrical production including CD of the songs, piano / vocal score, script and orchestrations for several instruments. Lessons learned from each school that puts on a production is shared with other schools as a way to empower more children and to spread the joys of jazz music and the benefits of arts education.

Nora’s Ark has been performed multiple times in and around the Tri-State area and as far away as Santa Fe, New Mexico and Laurel, Mississippi. Recently, two more schools in Mississippi, located in Saltillo and Tupelo, have licensed the play to stage productions in spring of 2011. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy will be performing selections from Nora’s Ark in their concert, Soundscapes 2011, on May 20 and 21 at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn Heights. Tickets can be purchased at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Web site (http://www.brooklynyouthchorus.org/events+tickets).

About The Jazz Drama Program

The Jazz Drama Program is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization established in 2004 to commission original jazz musicals for young people and disseminate the work worldwide. Founded by jazz composer Eli Yamin and teacher Clifford Carlson, The Jazz Drama Program (JDP) has developed the expertise to tell engaging stories relevant to children’s lives using the language of jazz.

The Jazz Drama Program has created a dynamic, groundbreaking learning platform that can reveal the importance of jazz in American life on a totally new level. The relevance of the story being told provides intrinsic motivation to students and facilitates an exceptionally accelerated learning environment. The JDP experiential method enables students to own the essential ingredients of jazz in the context of the stories they are telling. Teaching artists guide students in making the swing and shuffle beats their own in a spirit of fun and collaboration. The notion of improvisation becomes an effective learning tool, which can be used in music, theatre and every day life. Historical dances such as swing and the cakewalk, become visceral learning experiences with clear connections to American History. Practicing diction in the context of singing a bebop line with many syllables and a driving rhythmic framework challenges students both physically and mentally to expand their view of their own cognitive and creative abilities and boosts their self confidence.

Based on this philosophy, Yamin and Carlson have written, developed and successfully staged five original jazz musicals for The Jazz Drama Program. The subjects of the musicals include the fight for Women’s Suffrage circa 1920 (Holding the Torch of Liberty), growing up as a contemporary teen (Hear My Voice), the healing power of the blues (Message from Saturn) and a modern retelling of Noah’s Ark with themes of cooperation, freedom and survival (Nora’s Ark).

Hundreds of young people have embraced the work with their time and talent by performing the shows as dancers, singers, actors, instrumentalists and technical crew, and over 20,000 children and adults have applauded their efforts.

For more information about The Jazz Drama Program, their plays or how to license them, please go to thejazzdramaprogram.org (http://www.thejazzdramaprogram.org/).