Jazz is alive and well in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys of Pennsylvania.
The sounds of Duke Ellington, Chick Corea, Sammy Nestico, and Miles Davis just to name a few echoed through the Musikfest Cafe at the Steel Stacks Music Venue in Bethlehem, PA https://www.steelstacks.org/about/what-is-steelstacks/. This was once the home to Bethlehem Steel, the second leading manufacturer of steel in the United States. The men and women who worked here from its inception and through its heyday lived through the Jazz Age – what a melding of the old and the new.
We were there to watch our son, Charlie, lead his high school jazz band students in the finals of the HS Jazz Band Showcase. This was our first live concert of this year, the only other one since Covid being the Holiday Concert at the high school where Charlie teaches.
These high school musicians were so talented that if you closed your eyes you could imagine yourself in a speakeasy in NYC, Chicago, or New Orleans. You could be transported to the Cotton Club, Birdland, or the Apollo Theater. It was magical.
What impressed me most is that these young musicians weren’t just playing the music; they were feeling it. You could see it on their faces, coming through their bodies as they kept the rhythm and beat, feel it in the music they were bringing the charts to life. The students who soloed and improvised amazed me with their incredible confidence and poise. This is to the credit of their passionate music teachers who are tirelessly working to keep music alive in our schools.
I am hopeful that the legends of Jazz will be kept alive for generations to come so long as there are music teachers to share their love of the genre, students who step out of their comfort zones and answer the call, and audiences who appreciate the their efforts. American music stands on the shoulders of giants. Let’s not forget them or their music.