Grantee Spotlight: Pensacola Opera ‘From Words to Music’

Provided by Pensacola Opera

Students in the “Upside of Florida” are creating their own operas – and loving it!

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It all began in 2006, when the administration, faculty, students, and parents at Holley-Navarre Elementary School agreed to join the pilot program of a new arts-in-education initiative offered by Pensacola Opera.  Since that time, over 40 world premiere operas have been conceived, created and performed by children as part of Pensacola Opera’s From Words to Music program.

Pensacola Beach Elementary School’s Music Specialist Mary Holway shares, “Our school has been participating in From Words to Music for five years. At this point, I believe I would lose my job if I did not participate! The teachers, parents, and staff all love seeing and hearing our 2nd graders take a book, read it, and turn it into an evening of opera fun every year. They are just learning comprehension as 2nd grade readers, so turning a story from a book into a libretto, characters, songs and sets, is a perfect way to up the ante on their comprehension. Think of it as acting out and singing every book you’ve ever enjoyed….the results are amazing. The parents, in particular, are blown away by the process and the product. They just cannot believe that their children can participate with such enthusiasm and it is usually those kids that are not performers who get the most out of the process. The kids always amaze!”

pensacola opera 2Conductor, pianist, and Director of Education, Cody Martin, along with Pensacola Opera’s five Artists in Residence, provide mentoring and professional musical support throughout the academic year.  The company also provides financial support to help underwrite the production costs associated with the students’ presentations.

Prior to her appointment as Pensacola Opera’s Executive Director, Chandra McKern was Director of Education for Nashville Opera and Pensacola Opera.  She experienced first-hand the positive outcomes possible through participation in the program.  “From Words to Music is a year-long program that allows children to be creative, build confidence, and develop a joy for learning while building academic and social skills.  I remember a child that burst into tears at the end of her performance for her peers.  I walked up to her and asked if she was alright?  Her response was, “I just feel so loved” and she gave me a hug.  Her teacher then told me that she had been moved from foster homes her whole life, and this was a very special moment for her to be on stage. These stories are endless and I truly believe that Pensacola Opera is making a difference with this incredible program.”

pensacola opera 3The success of the program is due in no small part to the enthusiastic support provided by Angela Barberi, the Fine Arts Coordinator for the Escambia County School District, who is a strong advocate for the importance of the program. “Through our partnership with the Opera we are able to provide relevant arts integration professional development for our teachers and bring incredible Opera experiences to our most under resources students through From Words to Music and the Opera in Our Schools program.”

Now celebrating its twelfth continuous year, From Words to Music, continues to invigorate and educate, combining the power of  musical story-telling with the endless create enthusiasm of students and teachers in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

To learn more about Pensacola Opera and From Words to Music, visit their website: https://pensacolaopera.com/.


Interested in seeing your organization featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/3sMwuJWA3bM1orPl2.

Art Talk: Katchen Duncan and Bahama Village Music Program

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© Ralph de Palma Photography

Bahama Village Music Program is a community music education program that has been serving the Key West area of Bahama Village since 1999. The program is dedicated to giving underpriveleged kids the gift of music. We chatted with BVMP’s executive director, Katchen Duncan, to learn more about the program and its impact on its community. 

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): Tell us a little about the history and founding of Bahama Village Music Program.

Katchen: Bahama Village Music Program was founded in 1999 following the retirement of beloved Bahama Village piano teacher Ellen Sanchez.  Robin Kaplan, the program founder, recognized the void in the neighborhood and founded BVMP in a storage room off the stage in the Frederick Douglass Gym with a few student teachers and a dozen students. Students showed up whether it was time for their lessons or not, and it was soon realized that this was really something the neighborhood and the community at large needed.  

DCA: What is unique about the population that BVMP serves?

Katchen: BVMP’s student population is very diverse, with students from all walks of life mingling together in ensemble classes and workshops.  BVMP mainly serves low income at risk youth but any child is allowed to participate. Still, over 80% of our student’s families report an income under the ALICE level.  Many of our students are first generation americans, and some are the only english speaking members of their families.  A really unique aspect of BVMP is the student teacher model, BVMP students become teachers when they reach high school offering not only after school employment but also something to work towards!  Having the goal of becoming a student teacher inspires our students to work hard on their practicing and musicality.

DCA: What types of programs does BVMP offer?

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© Ralph de Palma Photography 

Katchen: BVMP offers individual lessons in piano, guitar, drums, woodwinds, brass and strings.  We also offer ensemble classes in music theory, composition, choir, a cappella, ukulele, school of rock, violin, dance, steel pan and musical theater. Through our partnership with the local school district we were able to expand our programming to offer classes before and after school at our city’s largest elementary and middle school. These popular programs have received much support from the community as the local school had cut music programs from their curriculum.

DCA: How many students are involved in BVMP programs?

Katchen: Over 175 students participate in lessons or ensemble classes at our main location with over 50 students participating at the local school we have partnered with. Over 225 students a week receive free music lessons!

DCA: You just wrapped up your third year of summer programming. Tell us about it.

Katchen: Our BVMP summer camp is the best! The campers have so much fun and really learn a ton in such an immersive environment.  Having the students for 8 hours a day five days a week really ups their musicianship and creativity.  The amazing results are evident!  Our songwriting class wrote 10 different songs!  Our ukulele class learned how to fingerpick in six weeks!  The end of summer recital brought the house down.

DCA: What is the best part about your job?

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© Ralph de Palma Photography 

Katchen: The best part of my job is the kids.  When they spill off the bus at the end of the day so excited to see you and get started on their music lessons, you realize you’re doing exactly the right thing.  They inspire us more than they know.  It’s even better when adult students come back and tell you how much their time at BVMP meant to them. After almost 20 years, we are starting to teach the second generation of BVMP students!

 

 

DCA: What are your hopes for BVMP in the future?

Katchen: I hope that we can continue to give the gift of music for many years to come! We are looking forward to celebrating 20 years of free music education next year and I barely believe that we’ve made it this far!

DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida”? Why are the arts and culture important to our state?

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© Ralph de Palma Photography

Katchen: Culture and art are the building blocks for a great society.  Many ancient philosophers saw this and we have all seen it to be true through our local art programs and cultural events.  These are the things that make each community unique and inspiring.  At BVMP we tout the benefits of music education on the individual; increased cognitive development, better scores on tests, enhanced problem solving skills.  But we know that putting the ideas and feelings of making music, collaborating with others without words, expressing emotions through playing and listening, make our students better human beings. More connected to their community and themselves, art and culture make everyone strive to be better and create things to make our world better.

The DCA thanks Katchen Duncan, executive director, for her participation in this post. To learn more about Bahama Village Music Program, visit: http://www.bvmpkw.org/.

Grantee Spotlight: MOCA Jacksonville ‘Art Aviators’

Provided by MOCA Jacksonville

MOCA JAX 3Founded in 1924 as the Jacksonville Fine Arts Society, MOCA Jacksonville is a private nonprofit visual arts educational institution and cultural institute of the University of North Florida. MOCA Jacksonville serves the community and its visitors through its mission to promote the discovery, knowledge and advancement of the art, artists and ideas MOCA JAX 2of our time.

For over a decade, MOCA Jacksonville has served the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community in Northeast Florida with its pioneering Art Aviators program. Formerly known as Rainbow Artists, the program began when a museum educator with a personal interest in working with children with special needs hosted a series of Saturday workshops for children with ASD. Art-making activities enable children with ASD to foster new means of self-expression and communication.

MOCA JAX 1Since its inception in 2017, Art Aviators has served hundreds of children throughout the region. From 2008 to 2015, Art Aviators was implemented in Duval County schools, and the curriculum was also adopted by the Coral Springs Museum of Art in South Florida.  Today, the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville offers free monthly workshops for families of the ASD community to enjoy as well as free spring and summer art camps. Art Aviators harnesses art as a powerful proven means of promoting expression and social interaction among children with ASD and their teachers, caregivers, and peers.  It is our hope to be able to export this exciting curriculum to museums and organizations nationally to give them a resource to serve the ASD families in their communities.

For more information about MOCA Jacksonville and Art Aviators, visit their website at: http://mocajacksonville.unf.edu.


Interested in seeing your organization featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/3sMwuJWA3bM1orPl2.

 

 

Grantee Spotlight: Emerald Coast Theatre Company

Provided by Emerald Coast Theatre Company

Cats--28Emerald Coast Theatre Company exists to inspire, educate, and empower the community and artists of all ages to achieve the highest level of cultural excellence through collaboration, productions, and educational programs that promote lifelong learning and provide excellent, professional entertainment in the Emerald Coast Community. The company was founded in 2012 by husband-and-wife team, Nathanael and Anna Fisher, who serve as producing artistic director and associate IMG_8794artistic director, respectively.

Having returned to the Destin area after completing their graduate studies, the Fishers identified a community need for performing arts educational theatre as well as professional theatre in the area. Furthermore, the opportunities for elementary, and middle school students to be involved in theatre were slim-to-none. Many students did not have the opportunity to be exposed to or involved with theatre before reaching ninth grade. The Fishers aimed to fill that void, and sought the advice and consultation of the long-established Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, which asserted the community’s need for a comprehensive professional and educational theatre company.

IMG_8861What started as an afterschool program with ten students at Destin Elementary has now grown to a comprehensive, multi-level education program with over 400 students enrolled per year, serving children in Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay counties. Four of the original ten students are still involved with the company, and ECTC has developed satellite programs at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City and at Rise Dance Center in Destin.

Nathanael Fisher credits some of the program’s successes to the rapid growth-rate in the area. Many families relocating to the Destin-area are coming from larger cities, where comprehensive professional and educational theatre is commonplace. Emerald Coast Theatre Company is able to offer a successful, multi-faceted program that is comparable to those in larger cities.

IMG_6781Most of Emerald Coast Theatre Company’s camps and classes are production-based, meaning that every student enrolled has the opportunity to participate in a fully-staged production. The classes meet for two hours a week for ten to fifteen weeks. Nathanael and Anna are passionate about fostering community. The primary goal for ECTC is to create a space where children really feel like they “belong” and can explore and develop their creativity in a welcoming and safe environment.

IMG_4979As they continue to grow and evolve, ECTC is committed to expanding beyond their immediate area and aims to reach schools in the north of the county, where there is a higher population of Title I schools. They have started a scholarship program to make theatre accessible to all children and are also actively seeking grants to help sponsor more Title I schools for their Theatre for Young Audiences program.  They are also committed to reaching the growing homeschool population in the Destin area, and are continuing to expand their homeschool programming.

For more information, visit their website at: http://www.emeraldcoasttheatre.org.


Interested in seeing your organization featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/3sMwuJWA3bM1orPl2.

Grantee Spotlight: Key Chorale ‘Tomorrow’s Voices Today’

Provided by Key Chorale

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Key Chorale, Sarasota’s Symphonic Chorus, celebrates its 6th year of “Tomorrow’s Voices Today”, a music in education initiative that has given hundreds of choral students the opportunity to sing at the professional level. Students involved in the program have debuted world premiere commissions, recorded albums, and performed on the national stage at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Additionally, each spring, Key Chorale is joined by three Sarasota County high school choirs for a unique festival concert that features over 200 voices of all ages, from teenagers to octogenarians and everything in between.

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This season, Key Chorale is particularly excited to admit twelve exceptional area high school students for the second year of the Key Chorale Student Scholar Program. In this program, students who intend to pursue music beyond high school are granted the opportunity to sing on scholarship with Key Chorale for their full performance season. These talented young singers study and perform with a professional conductor, accompanist, orchestra, and world-class soloists. Additionally, they receive private voice lessons, coaching on the business of music, and attend workshops on preparing for college level music success. The students have the opportunity to demonstrate their progress by performing in a recital at the end of the season.

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These programs are the result of artistic director Joseph Caulkins’ passion for education and giving back to the next generation of artists. Key Chorale aims to inspire a lifelong love for and dedication to music in these young students. As Caulkins describes, “experiencing a student’s joy of self-discovery… seeing the looks on their faces when everything just clicks in a moment of transcendent beauty…these are moments where one realizes that sharing your love of music with others is the most important thing a conductor can do.”

As Key Chorale and Caulkins continue to deepen their relationships with local educators and students, they hope to create long-lasting partnerships to build not only good musicians, but good citizens, ensuring that choral music and artistry are alive and well in our community for generations to come.

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For more information, visit Key Chorale’s website at: http://keychorale.org/.


Interested in seeing your organization featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/3sMwuJWA3bM1orPl2.

Grantee Spotlight: Young Singers of the Palm Beaches ‘Choir in the Glades’

Provided by Young Singers of the Palm Beaches

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Young Singers of the Palm Beaches (YSPB) is Palm Beach County’s award-winning, community-based children’s choir. The non-profit just completed their 15th season. YSPB is an all-inclusive, multi-cultural arts education organization based centrally in West Palm Beach. It is their mission to teach life skills through music. Young Singers of the Palm Beaches believes that music education of children is an important resource in the development of productive participants in our society. Through it we can transform and enrich the lives of children and our community by: breaking down social barriers, developing life skills, providing an outlet for creativity, and fostering good citizenship.

Choir in the Glades 6Young Singers of the Palm Beaches’ CHOIR IN THE GLADES program for elementary school children in the Belle Glade area just completed its fifth season. Choir in the Glades “BellaVoce” middle school program at Lake Shore Middle School just completed season two. The elementary and middle school choirs each meet weekly and offer the children in Belle Glade tuition-free choral and music experiences, taught by music professionals. Transportation is offered, also free of charge, to all elementary school children from school to the rehearsal site.

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The importance of this program to the children and families involved is proven in the retention rate of the program, with many of the children who started with the choir on day one still being a part of it today. Choir in the Glades reinforces a love of singing and the satisfaction of being a successful part of a group.

 

For additional information, contact Pauline Zaros at pauline@yspb.org or visit http://www.yspb.org.


Interested in seeing your organization featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/3sMwuJWA3bM1orPl2.

Art Talk: Gold Coast Jazz Society and Mari Mennel-Bell, founder of JazzSLAM

Gold Coast Jazz Society

Founded in 1992 to bring more jazz to the “Gold Coast” area of South Florida, the Gold Coast Jazz Society presents a seven-concert jazz series in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts each year from November through May.

Gold Coast Jazz Society has a rich history of community outreach and over the years has expanded its outreach and education programs. For those who cannot attend mainstage concerts, free outreach concerts are provided throughout the area allowing access to cultural arts programs to economically disadvantaged residents. The Jeanette M. Russell Jazz Scholarship Program has provided over $450,000 in scholarship support to qualified and aspiring young jazz students to study jazz in college or to attend summer jazz camps over the past fourteen years.

In 2010, the Society began presenting the jazz education program, JazzSLAM, at no cost, to area public schools. This program, which includes a live jazz quartet, helps students improve their reading, math and test taking skills through jazz.  In addition, Gold Coast Jazz has presented several other jazz education presentations in local elementary schools.  Gold Coast Jazz also provides the free First Friday Jazz Jam program, where local students can jam, before a live audience, with a professional jazz quartet led by local jazz musician and educator Nicole Yarling.

 JazzSLAM (Jazz Supports Language Arts and Math)

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Designed by musician and educator, Mari Mennel-Bell, JazzSLAM is a free in-school jazz education program targeted to 4th and 5th grade students and includes a one-hour, live and interactive jazz presentation with a professional jazz quartet. The program integrates the music of jazz with elements of Language Arts, Math, and Social Studies to help students with critical thinking skills and strategies for test taking.  The program is designed to support teachers’ efforts to raise students’ test scores, motivate students to learn how to express themselves within the confines of a given form, and supports teaching with the Aural, Visual & Tactile benefits of music.  Students learn how musical forms relate to concepts such as essay writing forms, how musical rhythmic patterns relate to mathematical concepts such as percentages and how the ethnic origins of jazz relate to the geography and social studies.

We chatted with Mari Mennel-Bell to learn more about her long career in Florida and what inspired her to create JazzSLAM.

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): How long have you lived and worked in Florida? 

Mari: I grew up from age 11 on in Palm Beach County. There’s something so different about being in elementary school in Florida- it was just so fun! I attended college in New York and stayed in NY after graduating. In 1998, when our kids were in elementary and middle school, my husband and I decided to relocate to Broward County and we have lived and worked here ever since.

DCA: What inspired you to create JazzSLAM?

Mari:  I started JazzSLAM almost immediately after moving to Broward County. I had been doing a jazz program while working in the Hudson Valley, but one of the things that really gave me direction was seeing my sons just sitting at desks doing busy work. They were totally disengaged; they just did not want to be in school. I saw so many connections between academics and music and was inspired to really start developing the program. So, I went back to my roots. When I was in graduate school at New York University, I worked for the Children’s Television Workshop on a program which was using music to teach reading. After I graduated, I worked in a Title I school in the South Bronx that was doing the same thing- using music to teach students that were way behind in reading. I wanted to develop a program in Broward County that taught academics through jazz. I am so grateful to the Gold Coast Jazz Society for their funding and organizational support and the teachers in Broward County, who have, over the years provided wonderful feedback and suggestions that have helped me continue to develop the program.

DCA: What is the best part about your job?

Mari: Without a doubt, working with the students is the best part. Just seeing them make connections and seeing light bulbs go off in their heads is so cool. It’s always surprising, too, which students are the first to make connections. Oftentimes, it is a student with special needs that will allow the connections to become physically apparent by standing up and dancing or clapping to the music. I love to use this as an opportunity to put students that are handicapped or have special needs– students who are usually being bullied– in a leadership role. It is just super cool to be able to do this.

Teaching academics through the arts is such a powerful way to reach students. Students come in and don’t know what they’re coming to and aren’t sure they are going to like it and then we get rolling, and the fact that there’s so much music involved, it just captivates them and captures their attention in a way that straight academics don’t.

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DCA: What are some examples of how JazzSLAM integrates musical concepts with academics to enrich learning?

Mari: Our programs focus on language arts, math, and social studies concepts. For example, we use AABA song form as a parallel learning device for narrative essays. Students learn how narrative essays tell a story. Fairy tales are a perfect example: the first paragraph introduces “who, what, when, where, why”, the second develops the story, the third adds a problem, and the fourth resolves the problem. The lyrics and structure of AABA song form do the same thing.

The song “I Got Rhythm” is a great example of this. I describe it to the students as a “gratitude laundry list of good feelings that you can have”. The A sections introduce free things to be grateful for. The B section presents a problem: we are all going to have troubled times in our lives. The last A section resolves this by revisiting our gratitude list, which we can pull out when we are down in the dumps and remember all of the things that are good in life.

The day before the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, JazzSLAM gave a presentation at Silver Lakes Elementary. The school went to a “Code Red” lockdown, which turned out to be a staged, practice drill, however, the students were very frightened and lacked focus when they came in for our presentation. I used the “I Got Rhythm” lyrics to show them how to write a gratitude list to help themselves in times of stress.

After the presentation, Ms. Cline, a fourth-grade teacher, wrote, “Students learned that music can provide you with focus. That you can calm yourself with music.” Music offers logic and predictable patterns that bring us great solace in an increasingly complex world.

DCA: And how about using music to teach math?

Mari: One of the students’ favorite things is when we do a “rhythm orchestra”. Along with our drummer, Orlando Machado, I divide the room into five groups. Each group is responsible for one of five divisions of the beat: whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note, and sixteenth note. Orlando demonstrates the divisions and I stand in front of the class.  Each group is given different directions and kinesthetic movements for each division of the beat, eventually all clapping together to hear how the half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes & 16th notes fit into the whole note pizza. Then, the students are asked to analyze the divisions of the beat while I show them a pie chart, i.e. “How many half notes are in the whole note pizza pie?”,  “Which fraction is each half note called?”,  “What percentage would each half note be?” Other concepts like finding the common denominator to add fractions are covered. It is purely academic and the kids are having so much fun that they don’t even realize that they are learning valuable math concepts! I think every kid in America should have the opportunity to learn this way.

DCA: How has the program grown over the years?

Mari: The first year, we probably did four or five schools with fifty students each. When we started getting grants for the program, we were able to expand. I initially thought that I could do the program for 300 students at a time, but that turned out to be overwhelming, so we limited it to groups of up to 150 to ensure that each student receives equal opportunity to participate. At one point, JazzSLAM was serving 30 schools a year. Now, we are serving about 20 schools a year and I am also focused on growing our eLearning programs.

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DCA: Tell us more about your eLearning programs.

Mari: An educator saw me do a web learning presentation for Broward County (through Broward County Board of Education TV) and encouraged me to develop a way to present JazzSLAM nationally. Now, through the Center for Innovative Learning and Collaboration (cilc.org), we offer three eLearning programs nationwide, all of which are available for free to Title I schools. It has been really cool to hear from educators in tiny towns without supermarkets across the nation that they are using and loving JazzSLAM in their classrooms. It is one of my main goals for the future of JazzSLAM to continue to develop these programs so that JazzSLAM can reach even more students nationwide.

DCA: Which counties have participating schools? How many children participate each year?

Mari: The program mainly serves Broward County, though we have on occasion travelled to North Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. In the past 16 years, the program has served around 60,000 students in South Florida.

DCA: In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution that JazzSLAM makes to your community?

Mari: It exposes students to the incredible musical heritage of our nation, which is jazz, while allowing more interactive academic experiences. Oftentimes jazz organizations have difficulty getting into school systems, but because our program is academically focused, that has opened doors.

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DCA: What do you think the future holds for JazzSLAM?

Mari: I want to know that when I leave the planet that JazzSLAM won’t leave the planet with me. I think the future for us is in continuing to give live presentations and develop the eLearning programs, so that we can reach students throughout the state of Florida and the nation. I would also love to partner with a college or university to train future teachers in the JazzSLAM methodology. I’d love to find a doctoral student who would want to research the significance of JazzSLAM concepts and using music to teach academics.  I always want JazzSLAM to be part of Gold Coast Jazz Society and for GCJS to continue serving Broward County, but I also want the program to be able to spread. When you see how much the kids love to do it and how grateful the teachers are for this whole new approach to academics, it’s like a no brainer. I have to figure out a way to get this to more teachers– to everybody!

DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida”? Why are the arts and culture important to our state?

Mari: Certainly here in South Florida, we see that arts and culture are a huge draw for snowbirds and tourists. When I was growing up in Palm Beach County, there was close to nothing to go to. There were no opportunities to hear live music other than if you went to a private party or a club or community center. There is certainly a much more vibrant arts community in South Florida than when I was a kid. The more we have for visitors and year-round residents to do, the happier everybody is with Florida!

The DCA thanks Pam Dearden, executive director of Gold Coast Jazz Society, and Mari Mennel-Bell for their participation in this post. To learn more about JazzSLAM, visit: http://jazzslam.com/. To learn more about Gold Coast Jazz Society, visit: http://www.goldcoastjazz.org.