A Focus on Fostering Jazz

Betty Carter, 1990
Betty Carter, 1990

The real changes in the festival were occurring in the flourishing educational program. In the 1970s the commissioning program was dropped and replaced by performances of talented high school and college musicians drawn from a national high school jazz band competition and the festival-sponsored summer jazz camp. In 1971 donations from the festival made it possible to appoint Don Schamber as a professor of jazz at Monterey Peninsula College, and in 1983 the festival's board initiated a traveling clinician program in the Monterey County schools to boost the level of performance and improve music education in the area.

While the recordings in the collection of the winning high school bands and the California High School All-Star Jazz Band performances at the festival lack the polish and high degree of creativity of professional musicians, the level of performance and excitement in the playing is astonishingly high for such young players, many of whom went on to have careers as major jazz artists. The student groups also had the opportunity to play with the professional musicians at the festival, an extraordinary formative experience. A number of the high school musicians who appeared in the student groups are now prominent jazz performers, including: tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman; pianists Patrice Rushen and Benny Green; saxophonists Eric Marienthal, Dave Koz, Matt Catingub, and Donny McCaslin.

Photo courtesy of the Monterey County Herald