Jazz Profile: Youth At Jazz

Youth At Jazz  Photo: Frank Zipperer
Youth At Jazz Photo: Frank Zipperer

by Eddie LeShure

Youth At Jazz, a music and mentorship program geared toward offering accessible music education to the Asheville area, is hosting its YAJ Summer Workshop from August 4-8.

The Youth At Jazz Summer Workshop will be a blend of ensemble playing, music fundamentals, and Masterclasses, featuring an amazing and diverse group of clinicians, and will be open to the general public.

Youth At Jazz came about eight years ago when created by Davidson Jones as a result of three factors occurring simultaneously: His decision to retire from his Organization Development Practice; a trip to New York City with his then eight-year-old son Josh; and while there a visit to the Louis Armstrong House at 44-56 107th St. in Queens. Josh had heard about Armstrong from his dad and seen artifacts in their house that his dad had accumulated.

For Josh, the trip filled gaps in knowing about just who Armstrong was to such a degree that on the plane trip back, he asked his dad for a trumpet. Josh’s request gave Davidson an idea on how to engage in the Asheville community, and on June 6th, 2006, Youth At Jazz, Inc. officially came into being as a 501c3 organization. Since then, they have offered numerous performances within the Asheville area.

Youth At Jazz welcomes all youth, regardless of their ability to read music, pay, or play – and instruments are provided, if needed. Transportation may also be provided. They expect youth to be good citizens, practice at home, and show up on time. Frequently, some of the results are improved parent/child relationships, better school performance, and many members are now in college and getting gigs to help cover expenses.

The Youth At Jazz workshop in August consists of the Youth Jazz Camp and Masterclass Series. The events begin at 10am with Youth Jazz Camp Day classes taught by Kayvon Kazemini, Ryan Kijanka and Matthew Richmond until lunch at noon. The Masterclass Series starts at 1pm, when everyone is welcome to come and learn from featured clinicians Michael Jefry Stevens, Sharon LaMotte, River Guerguerian, Steve Alford and Mike Holstein.

In the Masterclasses, students participate with their instruments while virtuoso faculty members and guest artists present their approach to learning jazz. The dialogue introduces concepts particular to the study and performance of jazz, and provides students with the personal insights of experienced jazz musicians.

In the Special Presentations and Demonstrations, these lesson times will include a variety of classes that are geared towards learning the history of jazz and developing the facilities to read and play more proficiently. Examples include “Appreciating Jazz – Early Swing to Bebop”, “Hard Bop to Modern Jazz”, and “Original Jazz Composition”.

In the Ensembles/Combos module, students will be grouped in a way that will encourage listening skills and communication, while also providing an avenue for applying the information gained through the Masterclasses and special presentations. In addition, parents as well as students are encouraged to attend the faculty performances, which will include a featured guest artist each day.

The Youth At Jazz program is in an exciting transitory stage. They are establishing a board of directors comprised of many talented musicians and promoters, hoping that the new wave of ideas will help direct the program even further into Asheville’s music community. The program has graduated many students in the past few years, seeing them continue their education into college, but is now in need of more youth.

The success of Youth At Jazz is based on its ability to enrich the lives of others. With the amazing space being utilized at E. Larchmont Road in Asheville, plus the incoming staff members, it’s hard to imagine that a lack of students will continue to be a prominent concern. Youth At Jazz is aiming to offer a standard of excellence that they are hoping will resonate within the Asheville community for years to come.


Alas, Rapid River Magazine must bid Eddie LeShure a fond farewell. Thank you Eddie for your multiple years of insightful columns. We wish you and Asheville Jazz Unlimited much success.