June 26, 2017

2015 Fall Benefit Gala Digest

Cobi and Jon

Honorees Cobi Narita and Jon Hendricks

“We were truly uplifted by the evening you organized for children singing jazz, with Love and Appreciation.”
– Judith and Jon Hendricks

Thank-you all Jazz Drama Program supporters for a phenomenal Fall Benefit Gala which raised over $30,000 for the coming year’s activities involving youth and their communities in JAZZ!

It was an amazing celebration of the life and legacy of two of our great jazz elders – Jon Hendricks and Cobi Narita hosted by the charming and soulful Ron Claiborne of ABC News, a die hard jazz fan.

It was great to share the night with you Wednesday. Truly one for the record books. The musical and inter-generational magic was astounding and lifted everyone’s spirits.


Honoree Jon Hendricks with company

Thank-you to all friends, family, volunteers, board & advisory board members, sponsors, artists, honorees, parents/guardians who made the night such a glowing success. Here are a few comments we received…you can add yours by emailing us at info@thejazzdramaprogram.org.

Let’s keep this Jazz Drama fire burning bright!

“It was great to share the night with you Wednesday. Truly one for the record books. The musical and inter-generational magic was astounding and lifted everyone’s spirits.”

“Great show! One of the most beautiful moments last night, among many beautiful moments, was the juxtaposition of old and young. I think each got satisfaction and respect from the other. So rare to see old people and young people together like that. Really powerful.”

“…there were no egos in the room. I had to think for a moment and had to agree. The seasoned talents were applauded and so were the youngsters. Especially the young people, they did not tire of being in a room full of grown-ups! I also said to several people, how lucky the youngsters are to have music to sing from this era, their moment. The first pieces of music I learned were from traditional sources and from the American Popular Song book. I do not remember how long I was singing before I got my hands on a piece of blues music. Your students are very lucky.”

“Thanks for giving me the chance to sing with my musical father.”
– Marion Cowings

“…the expression in Cobi Narita’s face as I read the words of tribute to her was just amazing. She was deeply, deeply moved, honored, grateful. I was at first startled. It was real and it was profound.”
– Ron Claiborne

2014 Benefit Concert Digest

The Jazz Drama Program held its Annual Fall Benefit Concert hosted by Rondi Charleston, an Emmy and Peabody Award winning journalist and Motema Music recording artist. The event, which was held on October 7th at The DiMenna Center Concert Hall, raised over $23,000 for the nonprofit’s many programs and services.

The Jazz Drama Program used the occasion to honor WBGO’s Dorthaan Kirk. The widow of jazz saxophone genius Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Dorthaan’s deep connections and trust within the jazz community was critical to the launching of WBGO-Jazz 88 in 1979 and to its growth into the country’s premiere jazz radio station.  Dorthaan has worked at WBGO ever since, tirelessly hiring, producing, and publicizing jazz and for over 25 years she has produced the WBGO Children’s Jazz Series. Dorthaan also produces Jazz Vespers at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark and Dorthaan’s Place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

The evening featured performances by Eli Yamin (co-founder and Artistic Director of the Jazz Drama Program), New Orleans style clarinetist extraordinaire Evan Christopher, Catherine Russell (Grammy Award winning jazz and blues vocalist) backed by the Eli Yamin Trio. Catherine Russell and Evan Christopher performed the song Eli and Evan wrote called “Let His Love Take Me Higher” and “It’s the Way That You Talk,” from The Jazz Drama Program musical, Holding the Torch For Liberty.

The evening also featured very special performances by the Jazz Drama Program Vocal Ensemble, a group of students who on scholarship received extensive training through the Jazz Drama Program’s unique vocal workshops. The training and rehearsals culminated in singing at the recording session of the cast recording for the Jazz Drama Program’s musical, Message From Saturn. Their vocal talents were on display as they performed “Bright Moments” for Dorthaan Kirk, the honoree.  The song was written by Dorthaan’s late husband, the genius saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk with lyrics by Todd Barkan, the legendary producer and jazz soul keeper who was in attendance for the benefit.

As a surprise bonus, there was a premiere screening of a 5-minute short by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Phil Bertelsen whose crew documented the vocal recording session with the students at Avatar Studios.

After a dynamic rendition of “Music Holds the Key” from Message From Saturn performed by NYU Freshman Andrew Farella, board Member Jeanie LoVetri, founder of Somatic Voicework, the Lovetri Method™, gave a passionate and eloquent speech about why it is so important to support The Jazz Drama Program, pointing to the young talent on stage.

For the grand finale, the Jazz Drama Program Ensemble students brought everyone to their feet to join in on The Jazz Drama Program classic, also from Message From Saturn, “A Healing Song.”

Proceeds from the benefit will allow The Jazz Drama Program to complete and release the cast recording of Message from Saturn and to hold another series of vocal workshops for the next class of up & coming vocal talent from the Tri-State area.

We are all very grateful for your attendance at the Benefit Concert and for your generous contributions. The Benefit Concert was chaired by Kareen Laton.

Photos from 10th Anniversary Benefit Event

The 10th Anniversary celebration of the work of The Jazz Drama Program hosted by WQXR’s Terrance McKnight and honoring jazz musician and educator Bob Stewart, was held on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at the Cornelia Street Cafe.

The event featured 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 included pieces by Bach and Prokovief, as well as classic blues and songs from our hit musical Holding the Torch for Liberty, the jazz musical, a story about women’s suffrage, and previews of our upcoming musical Message from Saturn, about the healing power of the blues.

Here are some photos from the event.  (All photos by Carolyn Appel).


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.