Whether you’re a kid on trumpet, saxophone, drums, or almost any other instrument you can think of, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Summer Jazz Academy is working to bring together youth in the city.
The Jazz Academy offers an intensive two week summer program, as well as a Saturday program during the school year. Student musicians are welcome at any level, and teachers work with them to meet their individual needs. The curriculum combines jazz and classical genres, giving students a well-rounded education in music theory, technique and aesthetic creativity in both classic and jazz, with a focus on self-expression and improvisation, according to the program’s website.
“I’m the first musician in my family,” said 16-year-old Mi-Love Byas.
Byas grew up in Englewood. She said music is her stress reliever. She’s been coming to Chicago State University to practice music for the past five summers.
“It’s like coming together as a city,” she said. “North Side, West Side, South Side, anywhere. It’s like a big collaboration for all of us.”
The kids, who come from Chicago and beyond, take lessons at the camp, but it’s not just about practicing music. It’s also about their futures.
“The fact that it’s here on a college campus means that college is a reality,” said instructor Dr. Dr. Roosevelt Griffin. “No matter what the background, no matter how far they drove or flew to get here, once they get here they are part of this family. They are part of this community.”
“It feels like I’m in college right now,” Byas said. “Like, it gives me that feeling like I’m here. I’m gonna make it.”
Same goes for 17-year-old Tommy Haepp from Canaryville.
“When I was little, I never thought of college. Most people in my family are labor workers. Construction, all that stuff,” Haepp said. “And then music, coming here, being on a college campus, it’s like really changed my outlook.”
It’s that message, those lessons, that are building a better Chicago.
“If you can play your instrument at a high level, you can read at a high level,” said Chicago Jazz Philharmonic co-founder Orbert Davis. “If you can figure out the most intricate musical phrase, you can do that with math.”
“It’s like school, but like fun,” agreed 12-year-old Ella Holden from Beverly. “It’s like fun school.”
To learn more about the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and their weekly Saturday sessions, click here.