Youth outreach is an important part of almost any major event. Steve Remington, director of the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, said the Jazz Fest office realizes this, and goes above and beyond the call of duty to touch the lives of as many kids as possible.
Remington is at the forefront of this mission. He said he works countless hours directing and brainstorming ways get more students involved with jazz.
“Jazz Fest coordinators visiting schools can be really helpful for students in the Pacific Northwest, especially in smaller communities where we don”t have a lot of diversity,” Remington said. “They help kids to learn and understand the shaping of who we are as Americans.”
Jazz Fest sends volunteers to the surrounding Palouse schools to educate kindergarteners through seniors in high school on the impact and importance of jazz. Remington said they cover the origin of jazz and its historical roots so kids can better understand what the music they are playing and listening to means.
“Youth outreach engages the community,” Remington said. “That is the largest purpose, but secondarily is music education. It”s engaging (students) in something they can be passionate about but if we can”t reach out and entice them into saying jazz is a good thing they won”t give it a chance.”
Remington”s said his passion for jazz and student involvement is second to none, and he said he strives to convey that passion to the kids he visits.
Remington said he feels Jazz has not had a large influence in Idaho and much of the Pacific Northwest. He said it is this reason that he and his volunteer staff created a Jazz Fest that caters to students and their families. Remington described meeting an elderly couple who had recently attended the festival.
Remington said the couple”s kids were in choir and band and they had a wonderful time at Jazz Fest.
“We see the looks of accomplishment on their faces and we hear them play – that is what we love about the Jazz Festival,”” Remington said. “It isn”t about the big-name talent or the workshops. It is about how it makes them feel. That is what building a relationship is about.”
This is the community engagement Remington said he hopes to achieve – touching the lives of the listeners and the performers is the heart and soul of the Jazz Fest. Students who participate in the festival gain a better appreciation of the dedication and work that music performance takes, he said.
UI student Kathleen Cox performed in the festival twice during her high school years and said she hopes that the festival will encourage others to become interested in jazz.
“There is not really a jazz culture in Idaho. It”s awesome that they can coordinate high schools from all over the PNW to come,” Cox said. “Seeing a great musician at the Jazz Fest always impacted me. Listening to Grace Kelly made me want to pursue being a music major. Eventually I was talked out of it but it took months for that to happen.”
Cox said the youth outreach programs that Jazz Fest coordinates are a big reason why the festival is as great as it is. The ability for directors like Dan Bukvich to come and speak at her high school inspired her to push herself when nobody else would.
“It”s important to have higher level competitions like the Jazz Fest because it reminds you why you started,” Cox said. “In high school I felt like I got stuck, but Jazz Fest showed me that I could work harder to achieve what the great players like Grace Kelly had achieved.”