116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
From an aha moment in the early 2000s, KCCK-FM radio began spinning a program that for 15 years has been bridging a gap in Corridor high school jazz education.
Last year, KCCK’s Corridor Jazz Project moved to an online format, but on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, the showcase is moving back to the Paramount Theatre, as part of the Cedar Rapids Community Concert Association season.
The program idea grew out of a conversation between Dennis Green, KCCK’s general manager, and some folks from Seattle also attending a public radio conference.
“They did this program where they brought a guest artist in with a high school jazz band and then recorded a CD. And boy, did the light bulb go off.”
What: Corridor Jazz Project concert
Where: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
When: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, 2022; presented in two sessions
Tickets: Cedar Rapids Community Concert subscription or $15 at the door or in advance at kcck.org; tickets are good for both sessions, and audience members can come and go as they please
5:30 p.m. performers: Cedar Rapids Washington High School Revolutionists, featuring Joe Perea; West Branch Jazz Ensemble, featuring Steve Shanley; Lisbon High School Jazz Band, featuring Joseph Schnoebelen; Clear Creek-Amana Jazz Ensemble, featuring John Carlson; Liberty High School Jazz Ensemble, featuring Jim Dreier; Cedar Rapids Xavier High School Jazz Band One, featuring Luke Sanders; City High School Jazz Ensemble, featuring Crystal Rebone; Solon High School Jazz Orchestra, featuring Saul Lubaroff
7:30 p.m. performers: Prairie High School Jazz One, featuring Anthony Williams; Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School Jazz Band One, featuring Toni Lefebvre; Linn-Mar High School Colton Center Jazz Ensemble, featuring Simon Harding; Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School Jazz Ensemble, featuring Peter Hart; Center Point-Urbana Jazz Band, featuring Lynne Hart; Mount Vernon High School Swingin’ STANGS, featuring Tim Crumley; Anamosa High School Jazz I, featuring Kevin Boehnke; Marion High School Jazz Band One, featuring Peter Hart
He knew that would be the perfect way for KCCK, the public radio station operated by Kirkwood Community College, to bring its jazz education mission into area high schools. The station already had developed Schoolhouse Jazz, bringing musicians into the elementary schools, followed by a middle school jazz band camp, but had yet to find something for the high schools, which already were busy playing at festivals and competitions.
Green knew the Cedar Six concert featuring Cedar Rapids and Marion high school jazz bands was beginning to fade in interest and attendance and felt a new pairing between KCCK, local jazz musicians and the high schools could change all that.
So around 2006, he pitched the idea of replacing Cedar Six with a concert as a capstone to the new project pairing guest artists with jazz bands, and recording a CD the groups could buy at cost and sell as a fundraiser for their band departments. He also proposed expanding the project to include Iowa City school jazz bands.
“Everybody was really enthusiastic,” he said.
After a year or so of planning, the project launched in 2008 with eight high school bands from the Corridor, culminating in a concert at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, about six weeks before the 2008 floods damaged the building beyond repair.
“Then I polled the band directors after: ‘Was this a good idea? Is this something that’s worth your time?’ And the enthusiasm was incredible,” Green noted. “Everybody said this is one of the coolest things that we do all year. It’s not competitive. It gives the kids an experience they have never had before.
“And then when we do the concert, the students also watch each other because at a festival, they're probably either a) warming up, b) getting ready for their performance or c) coming down after their performance. They don't get to see their friends in other bands play — there's just too much going on. But when we do our concert, everyone is just there to celebrate everybody else's hard work.“
This year, audiences and students will get to see 16 bands on the Paramount stage, including three new participants: Anamosa, Clear Creek-Amana and West Branch.
Green said the 2020 concert was the last high school jazz event held in the state before the COVID shutdown.
“Last year, we produced an online video concert in lieu of an in-person event, traveling to each school and recording them in a safe and socially-distanced fashion,” he said. “We felt very fortunate that in a year when so many programs were canceled, the students were still able to look forward to having the Corridor Jazz Project.”
Building off the popularity of the 2021 video recordings, KCCK is releasing video recordings of each band on DVD instead of an audio CD.
In tandem with the jazz project, students were invited to submit original art works for “The Corridor Jazz Project XV,” a compilation of recordings from the 16 participating bands. A juried panel from Kirkwood chose a lively, colorful piece by Kira Sullivan, a senior at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School.
She will receive $100 from KCCK, and her original design will be displayed during the concert, along with honorable mention submissions from Lily Booth, Mount Vernon; Naaron Cardona, L’Engle Charis-Carlson, Kieran Moore and Lohman Provorse, Iowa City High; Rubie Chiappetta, Madalyn Davis, Bella Sharp and Jude Teague, Cedar Rapids Washington; and Caroline Mascardo, Iowa City West High.
The guest artists typically come from Eastern Iowa, but others have driven in from the Quad Cities and Des Moines, and this year, John Carlson, a former area resident who now lives in suburban Chicago, was on the guest roster. National artists who were performing in the area also have participated, including trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and saxophonist Dave Pietro.
This is the second year KCCK has teamed up with Cedar Rapids Community Concerts for the capstone event. Tony Staab, one of the association’s board members, approached Green about the performance collaboration.
“We love that idea because even with our 16 schools, unfortunately, jazz band isn't like show choir where everybody follows the band every place they go,” Green said. "And coming toward the end of the season, we don't get the whole packed house.
“So getting to work with Community Concerts, which already has a 1,000 subscriber ticket base, come and get to showcase these bands in front of a new audience is a very exciting opportunity for us and for fans.”
Staab added via email: “It’s quite unique when a 92-year-old Cedar Rapids music nonprofit joins with 16 high school jazz bands and a community college radio station to put on a great show.”
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