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WANTED: JAZZ PRODIGIES

01/31/94
Conventional wisdom says that professional musicians starve. To combat that kind of defeatism and motivate gifted high school students to devote their lives to their art, the School of Music is hosting Grammy in the Schools Career Day.
by Christine E. Shade
Who will be the next Dave Brubeck, Whitney Houston or Branford Marsalis? It
just might be the kid next door, the one who's passionate about music but too
pragmatic to take a chance on such an uncertain profession.

If the School of Music has anything to say about it, passion will carry the day
Feb. 11.

A day with professionals from the National Academy of Recording Arts and
Sciences, faculty from the School of Music and teenage peer musicians may be just
what is needed to sway these gifted youths to follow a musical dream.

The School of Music will play a big part in bolstering those dreams when it hosts
the sixth annual Grammy in the Schools Career Day. The all-day event, produced by
the Los Angeles chapter of NARAS, takes place on campus Friday, Feb. 11.

"All eyes will be upon USC," said John Thomas, assistant professor of jazz
studies and studio performance. He thinks the music world will like what it sees
- dedicated instructors at a premier music school going out of their way to
encourage young musicians.

More than 1,500 high school students from the Los Angeles Unified School District
plus 124 of the best instrumentalists and vocalists from schools throughout
Southern California will converge on the campus to take part in performances,
classes, workshops and panel discussions designed to highlight their musical
talents and spark their careers. Other regional career days and concerts are
taking place in more than a dozen cities around the country, all as a prelude to
the Grammy Awards ceremony in New York in March.

The day's main event, the concert - which is not open to the public - will also
be attended by invited guests of the School of Music.

The Los Angeles Regional Grammy in the Schools program - underwritten by the
NARAS Foundation and the Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds - is
a music education outreach program produced by the Los Angeles chapter of NARAS
and presented at USC in partnership with the School of Music.

USC was "an optimum choice site" for the event, said James Berk, executive
director of the NARAS Foundation. "To the recording academy, USC represents a
model school, with its outreach programs and the quality of the professional
programs within the university," he said.

"We are honored to be chosen as the host institution for this event," said Larry
J. Livingston, dean of the music school. "This project, which reflects our
ongoing commitment to music education and community outreach, is a wonderful
blend of music business industry professionals, our faculty and students and
talented youngsters in Southern California."

The Career Day concert will take place in Bovard Auditorium, as will some of the
master classes. Workshops will be held in other campus venues.

The concert will include performances by professional groups, a high school rap
choir and jazz band, a classical ensemble and a mariachi group.

Making their debut performances will be the 20-member Grammy All-Southern
California High School Jazz Band and the 104-member Grammy All-Southern
California High School Choir. Thomas and associate professor of choral and church
music David J. Wilson recruited the members of their groups from schools around
the Southland.

"NARAS wanted a major university to select the musicians," Thomas said, "because
they would have a vested interest in finding the most talented students from all
across Southern California." This is, after all, an excellent way for the school
to locate talented potential undergraduates.

Another reason USC landed the event - which was held at Hollywood High last year
- was the effort of Mary Reale, the music school's public information officer,
who is coordinating the program. "She single-handedly, over immense obstacles,
wooed the Grammy people here," Thomas said. Reale shares Thomas' keen interest in
outreach programs for the arts and was in constant contact with NARAS executives
and LAUSD administrators for months.

As for Thomas, he doggedly tracked down jazz studies students in high school
programs and came up, he said, with "the creme de la creme."

"I could have made five Grammy bands," he said. "It was very exciting."

Thomas said the band will play "Man Tuna," a composition by assistant professor
of jazz studies Shelly Berg; the Gershwin favorite "Strike up the Band;" and USC
bassist John Clayton's "Blues for Stephanie," among other tunes.

Besides leading this Grammy jazz band, Thomas has been chosen to be assistant
director of the national All American Grammy High School Band and will travel to
New York for the Grammy Awards ceremony.

When Wilson rehearsed the members of his choir, comprising students from 30 high
schools, he was impressed.

"The students are excellent with very good voices," he said. "There was a
wonderful spirit. It was very exciting." Following rehearsals, the students
attended vocal workshops with assistant professor of voice Bard Suverkrop and
graduate student Lorraine Baeza. The workshops, said Wilson, were a wonderful
outreach opportunity for USC and an ideal way to expose the students to the
university's music program.

"Bringing 100 students together who basically don't know each other, who have no
idea what to expect," said Wilson, was difficult. But, he was pleased to find,
the chemistry was immediate. "They were in the palm of my hand in five minutes."

Wilson said he tried to put together a program that would excite and stretch the
students. "I wanted to introduce them to different styles and kinds of music that
would also have great audience appeal," he said. The result will be a piece by
Handel, another by Randall Thompson, a late Romantic selection and some gospel
music.

Following the concert, the LAUSD students will participate in career workshops
and hands-on master classes taught by music faculty and NARAS recording artists
in rhythm, brass, woodwind, classical music, vocal arts, composition and
songwriting and the business of music and recording.

USC faculty teaching master classes and workshops will include Suverkrop, Thomas,
and Richard J. McIlvery, coordinator of USC's recording arts program, among
others. Music professionals taking part are to include saxophonist and alumnus
Tom Scott, members of the Viklarbo Chamber Ensemble and others whose schedules
permit.

In addition to the concert and workshops, NARAS will present two scholarships of
$500 each to a student from the band and another from the choir. The students
will go on to perform at the Grammy ceremony as members of the National Grammy
High School Band and Choir.

Volunteers from the music honor society Mu Phi Epsilon and students from the
recording arts program will handle the technical aspects of the presentations at
Career Day.

Grammy in the Schools was founded in 1988 to help educate students interested in
exploring careers in music by providing them access to professional performers
and to the inner workings of the music business.

To volunteer to help staff the event, call Mary Reale at 740-3233.


[Photo:] Five musicians in the 20-member Grammy All-Southern California High
School Jazz Band, to be led by assistant professor of jazz studies John Thomas
Feb. 11, are from Hamilton High School. Shown here with Thomas, from left, are
Neal Usatin, baritone saxophone; Matt Schoenbaum, tenor saxophone; Marcus
Coleman, piano; Danny Pass, trumpet; and Pablo Motta, electric bass.


[Photo:] Associate professor of choral and church music David J. Wilson