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Jazz-MU-Tazz sharpens young musicians' skills

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 11:35 PM

HUNTINGTON -- It was all about execution for participants in Marshall University's 15th annual Jazz-MU-Tazz finale performance Saturday afternoon at Pullman Square.

A week's worth of rehearsals, discussion forums and jam sessions culminated with the performance from 21 area middle and high school performers from seven local schools, said Ed Bingham, professor of music and director of jazz studies at Marshall.

The event provides the students opportunities to perform in big bands and combos while learning about jazz improvisation, history and theory, Bingham said.

"They can take away a better understanding of their instruments and ways to play them," he said. "What they've learned here can help them in every style of music they play, not just jazz. It's a great thing to learn how to work together in such a short period of time."

Saturday's performance for the public was preceded by a smaller performance Friday night on campus, Bingham said. Marshall University's own Jazz Ensemble also performed during Saturday's public concert.

The high school students as well as the collegiate performers were privy to master classes from guest artist Sim Flora, professor emeritus of music theory and jazz studies at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.

Flora said playing jazz music provides a set of challenges for musicians that aren't as common in other styles of music.

"It's an incredible music education tool," Flora said. "They learn what it's like to play within a unit and still be an individual with their own compositions. The greatest teacher in the world is in the act of creating. There's more to learn in creating than in recreating."

Even though the students spent the week practicing and performing with one another, it is important for them to get out and share their work with an audience, Flora said. He likened performing music to an audience to an in-game scenario.

"It helps every phase of play," Flora said. "The performance for these students is the final product, and it is different when you perform for people. It's just like playing any kind of ball game, when you're in practice it's a different experience than when you're in the game, and you've got all of these different scenarios to work with. It's the same in performing music, you've got to execute."

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