The 2023 John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival, held in Oak Hollow Park, September 2nd and 3rd, was a spectacular celebration of music that left attendees awestruck and inspired. This annual event, dedicated to the legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, lived up to its reputation as one of the premier jazz and bluesfestivals in the country. While the focus is predominately on the international stars headling the event, a good deal of energy and excitement is generated from the young musicians who perform at the festival. For many of them it is the first time playing in front of an audience.
Early Jazz Education
Embracing music education, the festival organizers offered opportunities for local student musicians to participate . Each summer for one week
in July, the High Point Arts Council offers the John Coltrane Jazz Workshop for Youth. Participants then have the opportunity to to be the opening act performing as the Coltrane Youth Jazz Workshop. Rising middle and high school students immersed themselves in the intensive study including small group ensemble playing, jazz theory, jazz improvisation, and listening and analysis. Attendees were taught by educators and performers who are highly regarded as jazz specialists. The instructors for the workshop were led by Dr. Drew Hays; an active performer of both classical and jazz music in the Triad, NC community. He is a founding member and baritone saxophonist of the Piedmont Triad Jazz Orchestra and has performed throughout North Carolina with the group. The John Coltrane Youth Jazz Workshop came out playing a solid rendition of “Blue Train,” a well known Coltrane standard.
…On To College
The UNCG Spartan Jazz Collective performed an engaging one hour set to open the festival on Sunday. The Collective is a collaborative rotating group of faculty and students founded in 2012 to function in the mentorship tradition of the bands of Art Blakey, Miles Davis, and Horace Silver. Faculty members mentor a rotating cast of students in bandleading, arranging, and rehearsal technique, while focusing on specific jazz artists for each semester. This has included Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Max Roach, and Billy Strayhorn, among many others. At this year’s festival they played the music of famed North Carolina musician Lou Donaldson. He played with many of the jazz titans including Silver, Blakey, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.