Just Jazz Takes Jazz Education Network
The College of the Canyons vocal jazz ensemble ‘Just Jazz’, under the direction of Julie Lawson, started off the New Year with a bang by heading to its first national convention. The award-winning ensemble performed at the 9th annual Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference in Dallas, TX on January 4 to a large, appreciative crowd made up of jazz educators, composers, arrangers, jazz professionals and students. They received a standing ovation. Just Jazz was selected to perform their 50-minute set based on a live, anonymous recording audition. This event represents the largest educational/performance conference in the global jazz community.
Established by a group of jazz leaders in 2008, JEN was created to foster the jazz arts community through promoting performance, advancing education, and inspiring new audiences. Since then, JEN has grown to boast thousands of members across the nation and around the world.
Their set was carefully selected by Professor Lawson in order to highlight a variety of jazz styles, composers and arrangers. They opened with an arrangement of “Mornin’” an original song by Al Jarreau (Funk), followed by tunes by esteemed composers like Harry Connick, Jr. (Medium Swing), Thad Jones (Ballad), Paul Simon (Afro-Cuban), and Don Menza (Up-tempo Swing), to name a few.
The group traveled with a professional rhythm section composed of Alex Nizzoli on piano, Emilio Terranova on bass, Brijesh Pandya on drums, and Thomas Mimms, III on saxophone.
‘Just Jazz’ has been a regular fixture at the competitive Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival for the past seven years as well and they have walked away with many trophies and awards over the years. This spring, both Lawson’s vocal jazz groups, Just Jazz and House Blend were selected to compete in Monterey on March 11, 2018. They are two of the six college groups that were selected, again based on a blind audition. “COC just began their spring semester on February 5 but both groups have already begun rehearsing in preparation for this competition,” said Lawson. “The students are so dedicated to their ensembles.” “We are like a sports team, it doesn’t work unless everyone is a team player, not only taking personal responsibility for learning their music, but then learning how to weave their sound into the ensemble, creating the perfect blend and balance.” “I feel honored to be able to work with these talented students.” “It is truly my pleasure.”
“I am so grateful for the ongoing support from Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook, my colleagues Lori Marie Rios and Dr. Bernardo Feldman, my Dean, Dr. Carmen Dominguez, and the Patrons of the Performing Arts,” said Lawson. “Without their encouragement and generosity, none of this would be possible.”
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