Jazz Promoters and Artists Recognized at Concert Fundraiser for Music in the Classroom

SAN DIEGO, October 24, 2014 -- SoCal Jazz Society took time out of it's concert-fundraiser held Sunday, October 19, 2014, to recognize luminaries in the local jazz community. None seemed more excited and touched than international jazz vocalist Sacha Boutros for being honored as the 2014 Jazz Musician of the Year.

"I am so grateful words cannot express how I feel. This is the 1st time in 15 years I was recognized in SD. This meant the world to me," gushed Boutros on her personal Facebook page. The Society recognized her "national and international exposure performing Latin jazz, bossa nova, swing, and pop while singing in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French...reflects well on San Diego as one of the best cities in American jazz music."

The event was the annual SoCal Jazz Society event to raise awareness and money for their music in the classroom program. Last year, SoCal Jazz doubled the number of classrooms, saw a surge in individual donations, and enjoyed strong support from community groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary, the Clairemont Mesa Education Foundation, Jazz radio station KSDS, and the Visual and Performing Arts Department (VAPA) at San Diego Unified Schools. Society President, Mark Nicholson, whose daytime job is Music Supervisor of the Visual and Performing Arts Department of San Diego Unified, feels San Diego's jazz community deserves the recognition.

"Most San Diegans don't realize that in the international world of jazz, San Diego is a big deal," states Nicholson emphasizing that much of the credit for the Society's growing success goes toward the jazz community-at-large. Also recognized were Kevyn Lettau, who collaborated with Talbot to create the school music curriculum that is now being modified for both high school and kindergarten classrooms, as the 2014 "Jazz Educator of the Year," KSDS Jazz 88 on-air personality Ron Dhanifu as "Jazz DJ of the Year" and Claudia Russell, also a KSDS radio personality, as the "Jazz Promoter of the Year."

Clearly moved by the recognition, Russell responded stating, "I am a fortunate woman, indeed. May we all continue to love and be loved In return." 

At its core, SoCal Jazz Society is devoted to increasing the interest, understanding, and enjoyment of American jazz music.  The Society provides in-school classes, master classes, and private jazz music education, as well as concerts and the promotion of jazz events around the county.  The core focus is to bring jazz curricula and local jazz performers to the kids in their classrooms.

"Our programs aren't about learning to play music, they are about history, culture and art," states Mary Talbot, the Society's founder and executive director. "Support from the business community is amazing." After members toured Taylor Guitars, the company donated a new guitar that was auctioned off at the event. Also pitching in was Bernardo Winery, Athletes First, Succulent Solutions, Ballastpoint Brewery and Nick Rail Music

Playing jazz the entire evening for the four dozens guests busy drinking champagne and dining on a long table of gourmet food catered by Marvelous Meals (Georgia Hornback) was the Joseph Luna Band along and Adrian Terrazas-Gonzales, former member of The Mars Volta, stepping in to add some tasty tenor sax notes. 

Spontaneously, several teachers stepped up to share with the audience their experience with putting music in the classrooms. EllaSatchmoFatsThe DukeBillie and Bessie – they all become part of the kids’ lives in just a few weeks. They soak it up like sponges, thirsting for culture. They get a peek into American history and follow the progression of Jazz music from New Orleans to Chicago to New York. What’s special about jazz in America is that it is a microcosm of democracy, a musical expression of the individual within a larger group. Every voice is heard.  For students, that’s an exciting idea, and it shows.

"When I see a fourth grader dancing around the classroom to jazz greats like Cab Calloway, it reminds me that it’s not about playing music as much as appreciation and participation. That’s what SoCal Jazz does for kids,” states Talbot. Talbot realized that jazz music is more widely enjoyed once people have the opportunity to understand the musical “conversation” that is jazz. Given a few lessons on the fundamentals, most people appreciate and enjoy jazz music, especially at the elementary and secondary school levels. SoCal Jazz Society was created to open those doors.

SoCal Jazz Society is inviting people who believe in the mission to contribute financially or to volunteer on the board. While the Society is supported through grants, it is really jazz lovers themselves that make it work. At a cost of $1,000 per 12-week jazz program, their fundraising goal is a modest $24,000 even as the enjoyment by the kids is priceless. Talbot calls it an excellent return on investment if happiness is the bottom line.