Young musicians hone their skills at Kelowna Jazz Jam

Grade 12 KSS student Afu Kuteca plays the saxophone for an eager audience at the Jazz Jam. (Cole Schisler photo)Grade 12 KSS student Afu Kuteca plays the saxophone for an eager audience at the Jazz Jam. (Cole Schisler photo)
Grade 12 MBSS student Dae-Lillee Baillie-McGillivray smiles during a performance with other student musicians. (Cole Schisler photo)Grade 12 MBSS student Dae-Lillee Baillie-McGillivray smiles during a performance with other student musicians. (Cole Schisler photo)
A band comprised entirely of Kelowna area students treated the audience to some beloved jazz standards. (Cole Schisler photo)A band comprised entirely of Kelowna area students treated the audience to some beloved jazz standards. (Cole Schisler photo)
Players of all ages and abilities are welcome to play at the Jam. (Cole Schisler photo)Players of all ages and abilities are welcome to play at the Jam. (Cole Schisler photo)

For 11 years, the Kelowna Jazz Jam has been a staple in the local music scene.

The Jam is hosted by Stephen Buck.

If you ask Buck, he’ll tell you the best thing about the Jam is that it gives music students from local high schools the opportunity to come to play some jazz for a live audience.

“What I love most about the Jazz Jam is watching kids starting Grade 7, 8, 9 — whatever it is — become really fine players by the time they finish high school. Then we get to watch them go off to school and come back after they’ve done a year or two of a jazz program at university and we get to listen to them play.”

One of those “kids” was Zach Griffin. Griffin began going to the Jam as a student at Mount Boucherie Secondary School, then went on to become the band teacher at Okanagan Mission Secondary. Griffin regularly brings his students to the Jam. Griffin often plays alongside Will Friesen, the band teacher for Kelowna Christian School and MBSS band teacher Chris Perry.

Dae-Lillee Baillie-McGillivray is a Grade 12 student from Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary. She says she loves to play in front of a crowd and appreciates how inclusive the Jam is for musicians of all kinds — as long as they play jazz.

“I love that they’re being more inclusive with adding student players and more females especially. I’ve been here since Grade 10 and with the pandemic, I couldn’t play. It really sucked because this is one of my escape places.”

“It’s so good to be up there and it’s so nice that it’s happening now.”

Grade 12 Kelowna Secondary School student Afu Kuteca has been playing in the Jam for four years now. He said he loves the spontaneity of the jam.

“It also gives you a great opportunity to sharpen your stage presence skills. You can bring a tune you love and play it how you love.”

The Jazz Jam is open to players of all ages and abilities. Musicians will be supported by a welcoming group of players, local music teachers and ‘old-timers’ who have been coming to the jam since the very beginning.

Even Omicron can’t stop the Jam. New provincial health orders have restricted the Jam to 50 per cent capacity, but the music will continue in the atrium of Kelowna’s Rotary Centre for the Arts every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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@SchislerCole
cole.schisler@bpdigital.ca

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