March 29, 2017

JDP Hosts Summer Jazz Arts Institute 2016 (2nd Annual)

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Standing-Mary Ann McSweeney, Dayana Sanchez, Revalyn Gold, Yvone Christiana, Jim Pastor, Dimitri Ekshtut, Jamie Roach, Shireen Dickson, Tom Dempsey, April Armstrong, Antoinette Montague, Sitting-Kristina Koller, Adi Meyerson, Seth Rosenberg, Brian Fender-Shirley, James McBride, Eli Yamin, Alvin Keith, Hsinwei Chiang. Photo by Nisha Sondhe

On July 6-8, 2016, the Jazz Drama Program presented its second annual Summer Jazz Arts Institute. The focus of this year’s institute was on training teaching artists to employ pedagogies developed by the Jazz Drama Program into their work. This year’s institute was expanded to three days in collaboration with LaGuardia Community College in Queens and Lehman College in the Bronx. This year’s core faculty included: Jazz Drama Program Managing and Artistic Director Eli Yamin, JDP Board President and Dance Director Shireen Dickson, JDP Board Member and SJAI Co Chair Tom Dempsey, and theatre teaching artist April Armstrong.

Day 1

The first day of this year’s institute was dedicated to introducing concepts related to the work of a teaching artist. Eli Yamin opened up the institute framing an overview of what goes into being a teaching artist. The audience assembled for this day was diverse in age, race, and experience. The group included college students, professional artists new to teaching, experienced teach artists and arts administrators.

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Eli Yamin

Additional workshops were presented on the first day in the following areas:

  • Developmental/Behavioral Stages of Development – Shireen Dickson
  • Acting Warm-Up – April Armstrong
  • Vocal Warm-Up – Eli Yamin
  • Dance and Music Performance – Eli Yamin, Shireen Dickson, and Tom Dempsey
  • Acting – April Armstrong
  • Dance – Shireen Dickson
  • Storyville, a jazz musical – Lisa DeSpain – LaGuardia Community College

Photos by Leslie Thompson

Day 2

As the institute moved into its second day the program moved to Lehman College in the Bronx. Here our newly indoctrinated teaching artists met up with other artists to continue our journey together of exploration into effective ways of utilizing the pedagogies of the JDP in their respective fields. The day began with Jeanie LoVetri, founder of Somatic Voicework(tm), who led the group in a through presentation of her ground breaking vocal teaching method. Participants included both novice and experienced singers. All were left with a greater understanding of her approach and a deepening of their own individual vocalization practice.

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Jeanie LoVetri, founder of Somatic Voicework

Participants transitioned from the Somatic Voicework program to learning “A Healing Song” from the JDP production “Message From Saturn”. This was led by Eli Yamin and jazz vocalist Antoinette Montague. Through the energy created in this experience an impromptu performance and exploration in vocal improvisation organically developed. Participants found themselves transported to a creative space where they were able to explore jazz improvisation through vocal performance. The energy created in the room allowed for a healing presence to be felt throughout all of the participants.

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Antoinette Montague, founder of The Jazz Women to the Rescue Foundation

Additional activities in Day 2 included:

  • Tap Dance Workshop and Historical Overview – Shireen Dickson
  • Acting Workshop – April Armstrong
  • Improvisation Workshop – Tom Dempsey
  • A reflection and performance of “A Healing Song”

Overview of Drama Workshop with April Armstrong: Theatre improvisation games and exercises along with journaling was used to explore students’ ability to express themselves before an audience and deepen their understanding about theater as a tool for creative teaching. Acting is Storytelling through characterization, plot, setting and interaction. Equal parts can be found in jazz music as well. Jazz groups deal with the same concept often asking the question: How do you know when to go and out and shine or when step back and support?

The workshop explored the questions: What draws us to acting as a medium?

How can we translate our love for acting into concrete tools for teaching young people? What skills do you need to be a good actor? How are communication, eye contact, cueing and timing used by a group to enhance a piece of drama or music? Participants in the Drama Workshop worked with Tableau, Stage Picture, Journaling, Active Listening, Working with Imaginary Objects, Character and Changing Feeling Centers, Dialogue/Monologue and Improvisation.

April began the warm up by asking for group participants to volunteer to be leaders in a call and respond manner; first with movement only, then adding and sound. April then used a clapping game for focus and unity of the group. April lead an icebreaker called Sha-boo-ya, Roll Call where each participant made up a short 4 line rhyme about themselves which was shared through by a stomp and clap rhythm. Other exercises included were; Counting the Eights (for perking up the energy), Permission (for practicing non-verbal cues and communication) and Elbow Partners ( for getting to know people in the group).

During the workshop participants were asked to journal about a time when they felt like a “fish out of water”. They were given a partner and asked to share their stories. Then, joining another set of partners, each group chose a part of the most compelling story to present. A blues song was introduced to be incorporated into individual group’s presentation if desired. The groups set about to design, practice and present their 2 minute story-improv presentations utilizing theater tools that were introduced. We concluded with questions, reflection on the individual work as well as the format of the workshop and take-aways.

Photos by Leslie Thompson

Day 3

The climax of the three-day Institute was two-fold. A master class with award winning author and musician, James McBride in the morning and a performance by all participants of A Healing Song with singing and dancing in the afternoon.

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James McBride, Author and Musician. Photo by Nisha Sondhe

James McBride said “Story is where the muscle is,” and made the strong case for songs in a musical needing to emerge from a strong story. He guided the group to see how a good story presents a “normal world” disrupted in some way. This disruption is experienced by a character with a particular point of view. Once these ideas were established, participants were invited to create a song from the point of view of a particular character experiencing such a disruption, drawing on text from a mundane article on page A9 of The Daily News. It was striking how varied the songs each group came up with to the tune of “Doxy” by Sonny Rollins. James emphasized again and again the need to establish a clear point of view of the character and making everything connect in good story telling. He said, “You want to learn how to write a song, go to a diner and listen to people talk.” He also said “Artists are like dinosaurs, walking alone.”

In the afternoon, participants collaborated to stage and sing A Healing Song, from The Jazz Drama Program musical, A Healing Song, by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson.

Photos by Nisha Sondhe

What participants said…

What is the most effective part of SJAI?

That we are professional artists.

The respect given to and from ALL the teachers in the room. The thoughtfulness.

Comprehensiveness

Getting all the different teaching artists together and learning with and from each other.

Somatic Voicework, developmental stages, learning about how “Storyville” came together.

The collaboration and creation of a strong community. Also, being surrounded by people who weren’t trying to prove anything.

For me the most effective parts was the participations in the physical exercises the dancing the acting the singing culminating into a final musical performance. I also got some good insight as to a method of writing a song which is something that I never really tried to do. I have written many poems but have not attempted to make them into a song for any type of musical performance.

1) Short periods of instruction followed by hands-on experiential exercises — this combination was excellent for disseminating knowledge and then allowed participants to assimilate and own that knowledge. 2) working in groups with other artists 3) the atmosphere created by instructors facilitiated creative exploration and is an excellent model to emulate in other teaching and coaching environments

The way that jazz can be used by people (myself included) unfamiliar with the form. Breaking it down to approachable ways to begin working with it in our bodies.

The most effective part of SJAI was learning ‘A Healing Song’ and being able to confidently vocalize and physicalize the song. Everything about the song helped color my experience during SJAI – personally, as an artist and as an SJAI ensemble member.

STAY TUNED FOR INFORMATION ABOUT SUMMER JAZZ ARTS INSTITUTE 2017

BY JOINING THE MAILING LIST http://www.thejazzdramaprogram.org/

 

Summer Jazz Arts Institute 2016 Held

SJAI 2016 Group Shot

Summer Jazz Arts Institute 2016 Teaching Artists with special guest, author, musician and educator, James McBride. Photo by Nisha Sondhe

Announcing the 2016 Summer Jazz Arts Institute

Summer Jazz Arts Institute 2016 Med

First Ever – Jazz Drama Program Summer Jazz Arts Institute

Eli Yamin at the keyboard at The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

Eli Yamin at the keyboard at The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

We did it! On July 1 and 2, we broke ground on the first ever Jazz Drama Program Summer Jazz Arts Institute. With my great colleagues LaFrae Sci, Tom Dempsey, Shireen Dickson, and Jeanie LoVetri we launched what we hope will be a vital charging station for imaginative education through jazz for years to come. Thanks to Lehman Stages at my alma mater, Lehman College, City University of New York in the Bronx, we had two days to go deep into different modalities of teaching and learning in jazz. We asked questions about what do teachers and students need to have a great experience exploring jazz? What fundamental skills and aesthetic values do they need to access? How can we deliver them in an engaging, enriching and revitalizing manner?

After I gave a brief introduction to the Institute, master singing voice specialist Jeannette LoVetri gave a stunning two-introductory overview of Somatic Voicework ™, the LoVetri Method. This method of training singers prepares you to sing jazz and blues by developing your awareness of the different registers of the voice-head and chest and how to mix them with ease to get the particular sounds and vocal flavors that you want. It may seem obvious that singing the blues is different then singing Italian opera, but for too long, there has been little formal training available to those of us who want to sing American styles of music, most of which flow out of the blues. Jeanie’s method is based in up to the minute information from leading doctors and medical researchers in the field of voice science and it was a tremendous treat to hear directly from Jeanie how we can begin to develop a healthy foundation for learning and teaching singing jazz and blues. For more information on Jeanie’s teaching method, visit Somatic Voicework.

Jeannette LoVetri at The Jazz Drama Program's Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

Jeannette LoVetri at The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

Next, Jazz Drama Program Dance Director, Shireen Dickson, gave us a hands on workshop in Making Jazz-Based Dances. The dance workshop scaffolded specific universal jazz qualities onto pedestrian (everyday) movement to demonstrate how easily movement phrases can be developed to tell stories. While the class’s primary objective was to demonstrate how a jazz platform can offer an immediate point of entry for all bodies, and how this technique is used when working with JDP youth, the session also modeled very clear hallmarks of JDP’s dance education rubric: body percussion, musical phrasing, rhythmic pedestrian movement, improvisation, collaboration, and sharing.

Teaching Artist Judd Nielson, Dance Director Shireen Dickson, Board Member LaFrae Sci explore syncopated movement in dance workshop. (Photo by Ayano Hisa)

Teaching Artist Judd Nielson, Dance Director Shireen Dickson, Board Member LaFrae Sci explore syncopated movement in dance workshop. (Photo by Ayano Hisa)

Day One concluded with teaching artist, drummer and composer LaFrae Sci leading participants into the well of African American song and rhythm from which jazz music and culture flows. This session combined vocal, rhythmic and body movement to explore spirituals and the blues as a foundation of jazz learning across disciplines: vocal, instrumental, solo, dance and theatrical work. The session was presented as a critical complement to more traditional, foundational jazz instrumental and vocal learning and guided participants to embody blues vocal expression as well as the shuffle rhythm as the foundation of swing and the key to accessing the healing properties of jazz.

LaFrae Sci at The Jazz Drama Program's Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

LaFrae Sci at The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

Day Two began with a review of Somatic Voicework ™, the LoVetri Method, led by teaching artist, singer and songwriter, Cindy Hospedales, who is also a Level III certified Somatic Voicework teacher. Cindy presented the method as student-centered and ideally suited to meet students where they are at. She showed how isolating registers can help determine vocal issues that need to be addressed and demonstrated specific vowel sounds to use to access head, chest and mix registers and specific strategies for blending and extending range. Cindy emphasized the point that when teaching students to sing, teachers must know how to recognize certain problems that inexperienced singers typically face and have concrete information that provide solutions, especially when it comes to expressive singing in contemporary music, formally known as Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM).

Cindy Hospedales at The Jazz Drama Program's Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

Cindy Hospedales at The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

After the vocal session, teaching artist, guitarist, author and Professor at LaGuardia Community College, Tom Dempsey, led us into a cross-modality exploration of Improvisation. The workshop began with a wide ranging discussion branching off from intriguing quotes on improvisation such as the one below by Ralph Ellison.

“There is a cruel contradiction implicit in the art form itself. For true jazz is an art of individual assertion within and against the group. Each true jazz moment (as distinct from the uninspired commercial performance) springs from a contest in which each artist challenges all the rest, each solo flight, or improvisation, represents (like the successive canvases of a painter) a definition of his identity: as individual, as member of the collectivity and as link in the chain of tradition. Thus, because jazz finds its very life in an endless improvisation upon traditional materials, the jazzman must lose his identity even as he finds it.”  – Ralph Ellison

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgu28Hqg8Vc[/youtube]

Upon listening to Miles Davis Quintet’s live performance (1964) of “My Funny Valentine” with Miles Davis – trumpet, George Coleman – tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock – piano, Ron Carter – bass, Tony Williams – drums, participants identified key components of jazz improvisation taking place and contributors in the group. There was discussion on the elements of sound (timbre, dynamics, rhythm, articulation, etc) and how the essential aspect of listening fueled meaningful interaction between group members that contributed to the overall masterpiece of the recording. Some key words shared by participants: Playfulness, Feeling, No eraser, Courage Collaboration, Supporting, Vulnerability, Control, Critical thinking, Yes and…, Generosity, Dexterity, Shared language.

Tom Dempsey at The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

Tom Dempsey at The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (photo by Ayano Hisa)

JDP Co-founder Clifford Carlson looks on at Teaching Artist Cindy Hospedales in flight at Summer Jazz Arts Institute (Ayano Hisa, photo)

JDP Co-founder Clifford Carlson looks on at Teaching Artist Cindy Hospedales in flight at Summer Jazz Arts Institute (Ayano Hisa, photo)

The final workshop of the day was led by teaching artist, musician, actor, Program Director at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Mario Giacalone. The theater workshop complemented yet challenged how participants viewed vocal and physical improvisation from an abstract rhythmic place. With a previous foundation laid in Tom’s Improvisation session, participants, with the clear instructions to “not think just do” and “give yourself permission,” who had never experienced this type of workshop were able to push against comfort boundaries, and see immediate relevance to their own non-theatrical artistic/teaching practices.

Actor/musician Mario Giacalone and musician Lance Bryant collaborate in the Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College. (Ayano Hisa, photo)

Actor/musician Mario Giacalone and musician Lance Bryant collaborate in the Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College. (Ayano Hisa, photo)

We concluded the Institute with a discussion that reviewed Jazz Drama Program practices that we experienced in the Institute.

Teaching in a circle (communal)
Taking things step by step.
Embrace the role of women. ** (A lot of awful male performances are seen having prominent roles, whereas women, typically get minor/insignificant roles.
Emulating/Copying.
Interactive improvisation/Experiential group.
Body awareness. Holistic, vocal, body, mindfulness.
Just do it. Be in the moment and embrace the Judgement Free Zone.
Permission parameters (Ex. You can do whatever you want in the circle, BUT… do not lose eye contact.)
Have teachers on equal playing field as students/teachers as facilitators.
Meeting students where they are.
Remember to always incorporate the blues, as that is the grounding foundation of JDP.
*** THIS is what differentiates JDP from other European art forms. It separates from emphasis on technical ability and focuses more on freedom/expressing.

Culture of the blues = Accessible. Comes up from “the people”.
Inclusive
Mindfulness of connections between different disciplines. (Dance, Vocalists, etc.)

Teachers and Teaching Artists Jump for Joy at Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College (Ayano Hisa, photo)

Teachers and Teaching Artists Jump for Joy at Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College (Ayano Hisa, photo)

We are working on a more detailed paper outlining the activities of The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute 2015 at Lehman College. Please let me know if you are interested in receiving a copy when its done by leaving a comment below. Also, we are gathering names of teachers and teaching artists who might like to join us next summer at the Institute. We plan to have it around the same time-end of June/early July. You can contact us by visiting The Jazz Drama Program, where you will find the latest information on the organization’s activities and methods.

Participants at The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (L-R-standing-Lance Bryant, LaFrae Sci, Tom Dempsey, Dmitry Ekshut, Aasha Collins, Deanna Witowski, Mario Giacalone, Brian Davis, Clifford Carlson, Shireen Dickson, sitting-Eli Yamin, Cindy Hospedales (photo by Ayano Hisa)

Participants at The Jazz Drama Program’s Summer Jazz Arts Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York (L-R-standing-Lance Bryant, LaFrae Sci, Tom Dempsey, Dmitry Ekshut, Aasha Collins, Deanna Witowski, Mario Giacalone, Brian Davis, Clifford Carlson, Shireen Dickson, sitting-Eli Yamin, Cindy Hospedales (photo by Ayano Hisa)