As we wind down to the end of the year at the Nashville Jazz Workshop, I’ve been looking back at the past 12 months and realizing that 2015 has been a year of arranging music and starting new programs. Last December, I performed a Snap on 2 and 4 concert of all original songs. It took a very long time to prepare, but it was incredibly rewarding to hear many of my friends play and sing my tunes. I even sang a few myself.
In February, our special events coordinator, Mary Grissim, and I started a couple of programs that turned out to involve some serious preparation to launch. One was our “Jazz Lunch” program. We started “Jazz Lunch” in April with a Johnny Mercer performance for a gathering of caterers and event planners. We performed another “Jazz Lunch” in September, this time with the music of Jimmy Van Heusen. (I never realize how much work it takes to do these shows until I’m in the middle of them!) The second program we initiated was with the MNPS Music Makes Us program for schools. We wrote three different school programs to cover grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 and put it all in motion by the start of the 2015 school year.
2015 was also the 100th birthday of Billy Strayhorn, so I wanted to produce several concerts to commemorate his birthday. Don O. Henry and I worked on this show for six months just to get the correct information about his life and arrange some of his compositions for three horns and a trio. In April, we performed a concert of Strayhorn’s music with highlights of his life at the Frist Center of Visual Arts. In late September, we performed the same songs at TSU. We also had several student performances of Billy Strayhorn’s music as well as showcasing his music at Jazz by the Book and at a special Snap performance with an instrumental ensemble and five vocalists.
I always love programming Jazz on the Move at the Frist, and 2015 proved to be one of my all time favorites. This year featured the Modern Jazz Quartet led by Bruce Dudley, A Centennial Celebration of Billie Holiday by Connye Florance, Tito Puente led by Lalo Davila, and A Centennial Celebration of Billy Strayhorn with original script by Don O. Henry.
We also love performing with our students at Parnassus Books. 2015 featured the music of Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Billy Strayhorn, and Jimmy Van Heusen (with a special performance and book signing).
But I think I’m most proud of the series Cabaret at the Workshop, which we launched in July. It required a good seven months of planning and preparing the arrangements for the featured vocalists: Ginger Newman, Carolyn German, Connye Florance, and Robert Whorton. Since we had a trio backing up the singers, I arranged a ton of songs for them – the music had to be readable and arranged for a tightly rehearsed show. All the preparation was well worth it. We played to a packed house. Each of the vocalists was fabulous, and the audience was enthusiastic and excited. So I knew that a new series had been born. Currently, I’m working on Robert Whorton’s show for December 11, and we already have five cabaret dates on the calendar for our 2016 season.
In April of 2015, Roger and I traveled to NYC to perform with our friend Dorian Woodruff at the Metropolitan Room. Again, more writing and arranging! But it was such fun, and Dorian performed several of my original tunes. Part of the show included telling how Roger and I met, what brought us to Nashville, how we started the Nashville Jazz Workshop, and how Dorian and I met. Several friends from Nashville made the trip to NY to see us perform: Elyse Adler, Adam Liff, Lisa Taylor, Kenneth Stallsworth, Kenya Taylor, Sharon Ferrara, and Marty Slutsky. And Jeff and Cheryl Hall and Amy Pancio came in from Baltimore. It was a wonderful feeling to look out to the audience and see so many familiar faces. AND even Dorian was surprised at a few who showed up! It was great fun.
In August, my dear friend and writing partner Donna McElroy returned to Nashville for an amazing concert in the Cave. We spent a few days preparing the music for the Snap on 2 and 4, and we were able to record video and audio of an “unplugged” session of just Donna and me playing our original songs. It was really awesome, and with the help of Ralph Henley and Tom Knox, we’re creating some great footage of our songs. Stay tuned for more to come!
You may think this was a lot – and it was – but I didn’t cover all the regular things I do for the Jazz Workshop: summer camps, Jazzmania, hosting the committee party and the volunteer appreciation party, Discover Nashville performances, Music for Seniors performances, student performances, and, of course, teaching for our nightly classes! Whew! I’m a busy gal!