Thanks to the generosity of the Christy Wittig Memorial Foundation, Williams Energy, Wal-Mart and Gary Casebeer, the McPherson Opera House is bringing JazzReach to McPherson for a four-day program, March 30 through April 2.

Thanks to the generosity of the Christy Wittig Memorial Foundation, Williams Energy, Wal-Mart and Gary Casebeer, the McPherson Opera House is bringing JazzReach to McPherson for a four-day program, March 30 through April 2.
Established in 1994, JazzReach is a nationally recognized, New York City-based, not-for-profit organization, dedicated to the promotion, performance, creation and teaching of jazz music. It has reached more than a quarter million young people with its programming. JazzReach is passionately committed to fostering a greater appreciation, awareness and understanding of jazz, this ever-evolving American art form.
All of JazzReach’s artistic programming is carried out exclusively by the organization’s official resident ensemble, METTA QUINTET. JazzReach programs are highly interactive and feature:

Live music with the METTA QUINTET Live narration Relevant and engaging video projections Sophisticated lighting design Audience participation opportunities During their four-day stay in McPherson, JazzReach will present six of its seven educational programs, each for a specific age group.

“Hangin’ with the Giants,” Grades 1–2. A fun, high-energy program designed to promote the inclusiveness and accessibility of jazz while highlighting the legacies and music of some of the art form’s central contributors. Staged as a late-night talk show, “Hangin’ with the Giants” features animated likenesses of jazz greats Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk as show guests and offers numerous opportunities for students to interact and participate. “Big Drum/Small World,” Grades 3–4. This immersive, globally themed multimedia program features performances of all new commissions by prominent, internationally recognized jazz composers hailing from countries as diverse as West Africa, Israel, Cuba, Puerto Rico, India and the United States. The program also features fun, short video interludes that offer biographical background on each of the project’s composers and commentary on the various ways that both the American jazz tradition and their individual cultural heritages have informed and inspired their respective visions and artistic sensibilities. “Ellington,” Grades 5–6. Ellington is an interactive live multimedia educational program that aims to illuminate the rich legacy of the great American composer, pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington. “Miles Davis and the Blue Flame Incident,” Middle School and High School Bands. This all-new live multimedia program celebrates the groundbreaking achievements of the iconic trumpeter, bandleader and cultural provocateur Miles Davis. The program traverses Davis’ extensive career and features music from some of the most creatively fertile periods of his career, including his controversial divergence into electric music in the late 1960s. “Stolen Moments: The First 100 Years of Jazz,” Grades 7–8. “Stolen Moments” is an informative program that introduces audiences to jazz music’s rich history and to the names, faces and music of some of its many masters. On a broader level, “Stolen Moments” also highlights the interplay between the jazz movement and the evolution of American culture throughout the 20th century, emphasizing the ways in which jazz has acted as a unifying force, bridging cultural, ethnic and economic differences; stimulated cultural fusions and new stylistic idioms; exemplified democratic ideals; and influenced other genres of music, both in the U.S. and abroad. “She Said / She Says: The History and Status of Women in Jazz”, Grades 9–12. “She Said / She Says” is a comprehensive program highlighting some of the many important achievements of female composers, arrangers, instrumentalists and vocalists from early 20th century through present-day. Using U.S. and 20th century women’s history as a backdrop, “She Said / She Says” celebrates the lives of some of the many courageous, creative women who have dedicated their lives to the serious study and practice of jazz music. Along with METTA QUINTET, this program will be presented by jazz singer Sarah Charles, who will fly in from New York to present the program twice. In addition to the two-times-daily programs, METTA QUINTET will work each day with the McPherson High School Jazz Band. On the final day, April 2, METTA QUINTET, along with the High School Jazz Band, will present the “Sittin’ In and Groovin’ Out” collaborative concert beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets to the performance can be purchased online at mcphersonoperahouse.org, by phoning 620-241-1952, or by visiting the Opera House box office. The McPherson Opera House also has an app that can be downloaded from the iTunes Store or the Google Play Store. Ticket prices are $22, $17, $12, students $10.
Lisa Willis, director of programming for JazzReach, said about JazzReach and Kansas that “we have worked with K–12 students in Kansas before, but we have never worked with this number of students and on this scale, not only in Kansas but anywhere else in the U.S.
“I am passionate about jazz,” John Holecek, Opera House executive director said. “Two years ago, at Arts Midwest in Austin, I told the JazzReach people ‘let’s set a firm date. I’ll find the money somewhere.’ I am extremely grateful to the Christy Wittig Memorial Foundation, Williams Energy, Wal-Mart, and Gary Casebeer for stepping up with the necessary funds. I am also grateful to Randy Watson for his support of the program and all the USD 418 principals for their cooperation.”