Strings School Days finale concert to feature local student musicians

Audrey Dwyer

— In the Strings Music Pavilion Thursday afternoon, an audience of elementary students rewarded the musicians with a standing ovation. Local middle school and high school students were on stage to present an evolution of work from the past two years.

The Moffat County High School Jazz Band, Emerald Mountain School Orchestra and the Steamboat Springs High School Jazz Bands performed together Thursday night at Strings in a concert that was a culmination of the work they had done with guest artists, JazzReach Metta Quintet from Brooklyn.

A second free concert featuring JazzReach and members of the Steamboat Springs High School and Middle School bands will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at the Strings Music Pavilion.

The group from JazzReach was brought to Steamboat as part of Strings School Days, a program Strings created to foster music participation with younger generations. Spanning two years, the program brings in professional musicians who present workshops and conduct rehearsals alongside school music directors.

Like Thursday’s event, the concert on Friday, which is open to the community, will showcase what the students have been working on.

“It’s incredibly inspirational for both the students and me as a teacher,” said Jim Knapp, Steamboat Springs High School and Middle School band director. “It has introduced us to new music that many of the students have never experienced or heard. And it’s done in a way that is completely accessible.”

At the concert, the music will range from bebop to contemporary jazz genres.

“From a teacher’s standpoint, it has brought me back to the music that inspired me, and I never thought it would be possible to do with this age group,” Knapp added.

JazzReach is a New York nonprofit dedicated to the performance, promotion and teaching of jazz music. This mission of the organization is carried out through the critically-acclaimed Metta Quintet ensemble — Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, tenor saxophone, Greg Ward, alto saxophone, Glenn Zaleski, piano, Rashaan Carter, bass, and Hans Schuman, founder of JazzReach and drums — who travel to schools throughout the year for jazz intensive workshops with young students.

“These are not just band teachers but artists from New York, that’s the bottom line,” said Cristin Frey, Strings advertising and marketing director and youth program coordinator. “The two sax players especially stop you in your tracks, and you can’t help but wonder where that sound is coming from. Teaching jazz is a feat. It’s very intricate to understand and play but the fact these kids are learning it from these musicians is really impressive.”

Since 2008, when Strings School Days first launched, local schools have seen an 82 percent increase in music participation, Frey said. In addition, these young musicians in Steamboat are now reading and playing music at least one-and-a-half grade levels higher than they were five years ago.

“It’s really helped us dig more deeply into music and learn about the incredible workings of it to establish incredible grooves and expand the students’ musical palate,” Knapp said.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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