Flint-area music students jam with Jazz at Lincoln Center artists

Music poured from the auditorium at the Flint Institute of Music as nationally recognized musicians from Jazz at Lincoln Center guided Flint and Genesee County students through workshops and a jam session.

Students playing piano, drums, bass, guitar, violin, oboe, trumpet and more came together with musicians of all ages to enjoy the art of jazz and improv.

The students learned how to bring music alive while playing alongside New York City-based trumpet player Mike Sailors and bassist Endea Owens. The Jazz at Lincoln Center musicians connected with the students on a personal level and showed their passion for teaching.

“I hope to inspire kids to believe in themselves because there is so much going on in the world. There’s a lot of things that tell you, ‘No, you can’t do this.’ You hear a lot of ‘Noes,’ and ‘You’re not enough,’” said Owens, a Detroit native who has been part of Jazz at Lincoln Center for three years. “I think music is a good tool for kids to build that confidence and to know they are enough and to know that, even if they make a mistake, it’s okay. They power through it, and they move forward. I hope they always remember that, even if they don’t keep playing music, they will have that core belief in themselves.”

Students and musicians throughout the Flint area were invited to participate in the workshop as a way to bring the history and culture of jazz music to more generations and to have some fun at the same time. The unique experience focused on quality time with Jazz at Lincoln Center talent in a small group setting, allowing students to work on their skills and get to know the musicians.

“It’s a great opportunity to have the musicians from Jazz at Lincoln Center here to demonstrate their techniques and their philosophy behind how they play jazz,” said Karl Rueterbuseh, 15, who plays percussion and the piano. “It really prepares you for professional gigs in the future when you have to work with other people.”

A young student plays piano.

A young student plays piano during a workshop at the Flint Institute of Music.
Photo: Sarah Schuch

The mission of Jazz at Lincoln Center is to entertain, enrich and expand a global community for jazz through performance, education and advocacy. With the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and guest artists spanning genres and generations, Jazz at Lincoln Center produces thousands of performance, education and broadcast events each season in New York City and around the world, for people of all ages.

In 2017, Mott granted more than $350,000 to Jazz at Lincoln Center to launch an initiative that will help afterschool programs use the music that shaped our country to teach important ideas and concepts.

Alex Levatter, a university student who teaches violin to children in Flint, knows the importance of integrating arts and music into education at a young age. She said she was thrilled to sit in on one of the workshops with Jazz at Lincoln Center.

“To get that one-on-one opportunity with people who’ve had that experience touring the entire world, doing this for a living, that’s such an amazing opportunity,” Levatter said. “Arts have a good way of combining creativity with discipline. That combination can be really great for kids to learn at a young age.”

A group of musicians play guitar, violin and trumpet.

Young musicians worked hard to hone their skills during a workshop with Jazz at Lincoln Center musicians at the Flint Institute of Music.
Photo: Sarah Schuch

The workshops and jam session had a welcoming environment, Levatter said. There was no pressure as students learned, made mistakes and soaked in the jazz performance.

“I just hope that, even if kids don’t remember who I am, they’ll remember the feeling — how they felt that day … when they got that little lick they were trying to play the whole day or when they played everything with confidence. I hope they remember that feeling,” Owens said. “And that feeling they have will blossom into something greater. That’s how it always happens. So I think that’s what I want kids to always remember, how they feel about themselves. ‘Oh, I can do this. Oh, this is nothing.’ That will transfer to every other part of their lives.

“It’s that feeling that you never forget. But, more importantly, it brings humanity back. Music has its own language. People can connect from all different races, all different creeds. They just connect through music.”

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