01/29/11

Judy Carmichael: Listening for Life

Pianist and radio host launches program to bring jazz musicians to schools across the country.

Pianist Judy Carmichael truly is a multi-tasker. In addition to maintaining a busy performing schedule at theaters and festivals in far-flung places, the pianist (and sometime singer) also hosts a popular public radio show called Jazz Inspired. Now she wants to add jazz educator to that crowded resume. She has developed a special educational program—Jazz: Listening for Life—that brings jazz musicians to schools across the country. On Thursday, February 10, she’ll host a fundraising concert at Steinway Hall in New York City, with an impressive lineup of guests, including Steve Ross, Harry Allen, Chris Flory, Mike Hashim, James Chirillo, Tony Monte, and Jon-Erik Kellso.

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Judy Carmichael and Chris Flory
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Judy Carmichael
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Chris Flory performing with Judy Carmichael and Michael Hashim

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Carmichael says that she created the program because she wanted to bridge what she sees as a musical generation gap. “The Baby Boomers are the last generation to grow up with exposure to music with a complex harmonic structure, lyrics and melody—the ‘Standards,’” says the pianist. “The jazz we'll present utilizes this repertoire. Fewer radio stations play jazz and less jazz is presented in concert halls, so the population with a shared vocabulary of this music is shrinking. Also, many young people have music devices plugged into their ears at all times, for a "soundtrack of their life" rather than as something they're listening to in an engaged way. The skills for engaged listening are being lost and we want to address that.”

Carmichael explains that Listening for Life aims to expose students—kindergarten through high school—to concert level jazz musicians and to teach them listening skills to enhance all aspects of their life. She hopes to do this with a combination of performance with conversation. “It's for musicians and non-musicians, but mainly for young people to learn to listen more intently and deeply and understand the joy of a live acoustic music experience. Each musician discusses their instrument, their function in the ensemble, and their view of the music and how to listen to it.”

Among the jazz musicians who will be participating in the program are: Harry Allen, Chris Flory, Jon-Erik Kellso, James Chirillo, Leroy Jones, Ed Ornowski, Pat O'Leary and Mike Hashim. “Those are the primary participants, but I'll expand as I can,” says Carmichael. “Steve Ross is a cabaret performer, but I'll use him when I can as a master of classic, humorous lyrics of the great songwriters, such as Cole Porter, et al.”

Carmichael is not sitting on her heels either. She expects to get the program rolling this year. For more information about Jazz: Listening for Life as well as the fundraiser, you can visit Carmichael’s website.

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