Written by Education and Outreach Coordinator, Alexa Brennan
The directors and staff on our Youth Jazz team love having a reason to celebrate. And as students in the Columbus Youth Jazz program grow into talented young adults, there are plenty of opportunities.
When students turn into budding musicians, start lifelong friendships, develop a love of jazz, and cultivate a desire to make a difference in the world, we celebrate. When they get accepted into summer programs, the colleges of their dreams, they earn their first gigs, and put together their first concerts, we celebrate. And when four young musicians reach out to let us know that they were using their music for a cause much bigger than themselves, you can bet we’re celebrating.
Next week, on August 20th at 6PM, four members and alumni of the Columbus Youth Jazz program use their voice the way they know best, by getting together and moving people with their music. They are hosting a benefit jam session to raise money for the Black Lives Matter movement. The event will be streamed live on Facebook.
Jesse Jefferis, the pianist of the ensemble, told us, “As jazz musicians, we find it very important to know the story and background of how jazz music has developed, and where it came from. We owe a great debt to the black musicians and artists who played and composed much of the music that we play today.”
Jesse will be joined by his friends and bandmates Alex Davenport (drums), Isaac Roe (drums), Eli Pace (bass), Sam George (guitar), Devin Coons (saxophone), and Thomas McCloskey (saxophone.) All of these musicians have participated in the CYJO in various years. At no point were all seven musicians in the band at the same time.
Below are the testimonials from a few of these musicians, describing why they felt the desire to lend their voice to this cause.
Playing jazz has had a huge impact on my life and has given me the opportunity to learn so much about America’s culture and history. I have really come to understand the importance and influence past musicians have had through my playing, and understanding of today’s world. The time and hard work black musicians put into expressing their art, has really humbled me and shaped who I am today. I try to keep that in mind and at heart when I see the protests and injustice happening today. I think that if I express my feelings towards this issue, and highlight our past and present struggles through music, it can really mean alot and help others.
When my family decided to drive downtown and see the murals in Columbus, I felt an immediate draw towards all the powerful artwork scattered around town. I knew I wasn’t skilled enough to paint a mural, but I knew I could figure out how to spread the same message through Jazz music. I am so happy to be able to share this music to as many people as I can to bring attention to what is really going on in our country right now. Not only this, but I am happy to share this with my friends who I know are as passionate as me about this music and how it can strengthen this movement for change.
Since I began playing jazz music my freshman year of high school, improving my craft and performing with my peers has become one of my main goals in life. Through my pursuit of this goal, I have realized the debt I owe to the great African American musicians in jazz history. The recent killings and subsequent protests have had a huge emotional impact on me, and I feel moved to do something about the injustice that black people face in America today. I think this jam is a great way we can support the BLM cause, and hopefully spread a bit of the joy of music in these frustrating and stressful times.
-Thomas McCloskey, Saxophone
Music. This is something that has always been present throughout American history no matter how easy or hard times were. America is in debt to Africian Americans for many things, including music. From slavery until now, American music has been influenced, nurtured, and created by Africian Americans.
The assassinations of Africian Ameicans by law enforcement and the government is stained everywhere throughout American history. Nevertheless, music was always there and was used as an outlet to express the sadness, anger, and frustration of African Americans. This artform, however, is used by all people no matter race, religion, or ethnicity to express themselves. Music has no color.
As tensions rose this year, I found myself turning to music to express my emotions. This jam session will hopefully bring light to the current state of America. Although we are not protesting, we’ve decided to give to the BLM organization to help fight against racial injustice. I hope this inspires others to come together and push for a change.
-Alex Davenport, Drums
We hope you will join us in supporting these musicians online Thursday, August 20th, at 6:00 PM. All proceeds from their performance will be going to Black Lives Matter. You can find the live-stream at the link below: