Dukes of Dixieland visit Liberty Middle School
NEWARK - As soon as students walked into the Liberty Middle School gym and heard the Dukes of Dixieland playing, many of them began clapping their hands and bobbing their heads to the beat.
The New Orleans jazz band was in Newark to perform with the Newark Granville Symphony Orchestra at its Saturday evening concert at the Midland Theatre.
But before the concert, the band's members visited Liberty Middle School on Friday to perform a concert for the whole school. After playing a few tunes and showing the students how the different instruments in a jazz band work together, the six musicians spent some time with Newark middle school band students.
"Most of them have never gotten the chance to meet a professional artist who plays their instrument," said Diana Wightman, band director at Liberty."This is a great opportunity for them to ask questions."
Many of the Dukes have been playing their instruments since they were children and were inspired by other musicians. So it's important to each of them to visit schools and return the favor, said band leader Kevin Clark.
He and his fellow musicians encouraged students to keep practicing their instruments and listen to different kinds of music on YouTube.
"We want them to get a more in depth appreciation for all music, but predominantly New Orleans music," he said.
Many of the songs students play in orchestra class have roots in European countries, but New Orleans style jazz is a purely American art form, said Susan Larson, executive director for the Newark Granville Symphony.
The Dukes have been playing with symphony orchestras across the country since 1975, and Larson said she was thrilled that they were willing to come to Newark.
They will join the orchestra on stage to perform "What a Wonderful World," "When the Saints go Marching In," and a medley of popular New Orleans songs. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and Ohio State University Director of Bands Russell Mikkelson will direct the performance.
"It's another opportunity to perform with symphony artists and bring the genre to a whole new audience," Larson said.
Larson knew that Liberty had a jazz band and thought the chance to bring the Dukes of Dixieland to the school was a perfect opportunity.
She watched as the group helped teach the students about improvisation and layering sounds together.
"It's happy, fun music, and when you hear performers of any genre playing at the top of the spectrum, that can be really inspirational," Larson said. "This could inspire them to practice and study more."