Making music together is one of the greatest creative joys. Dedicated young musicians share this experience with professional musicians during the Summer Music Intensives at the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts.
Last year, the Arts and Music Guild initiated the Summer Music Intensives as a program designed to give junior and senior high music students an opportunity to learn performance and improvisational skills by jamming with experienced musicians. “We are teaching the kids options and choices that a professional makes, which is something they can learn only in a small group session like this,” explains Ryan Phalen, who mentors the drummers in the group.
This year, the Summer Music Intensives take place weekday afternoons June 10-21 and July 8-19, and they are funded in part by a grant from the McKinney Arts Commission. During the first week of each two-week session, Gerald Jones leads the group in aural training, bluegrass and folk music. Jones is well-known in music circles as a violinist/fiddler, but in any given session, he may lead the ensemble on the mandolin, then switch to the banjo, next pick up a guitar, and eventually walk over to the student on stand up bass and take the bow, showing him how to give the bass line an authentic sound.
During the second week of each session, equally versatile Jason Davis conducts the jazz jam sessions by playing the flute, saxophone and piano. Davis, with years of experience leading bands and in music production, gives the students a unique insight into the music industry. In addition to Jones and Davis, other professionals work with individual instrumentalists. Ryan Phalen (McKinney/Frisco) leads the drummers. William Foley (Dallas) teaches keyboard and Jerry Rizzi (Plano) teaches cello, jazz composition and bass.
With such great professional leadership, typical afternoon session is a rich experience for the young musicians. For example, this week when Foley sat down at the keyboard next to student Gaby Chase, he immediately began to discuss chord variations for a blues melody line that Jones was picking out on the guitar. Jones gave the violinists a few notes and an accompanying rhythm, while Phalen was coaching his mentees, while playing the drums. After the group sounded comfortable with this piece, Jones handed out a Stephen Foster tune, and brought the singers into the new mix. Foley and Phalen led their students in the new genre. All the while in another practice space, Rizzi on guitar led an ensemble of cello, bass guitar, flute and voice in an avant-garde mix of poetry and music. The kids love it, and their parents are so grateful for this incredible opportunity.
At the end of each two week session, students and mentors join together in an informal performance offered free to the public, June 21 and July 19. On Friday, June 21 (6:30 p.m.) Jones and students will be joined by two outstanding performers, Jim Chancellor (fiddle) and George Anderson (bass). Jim Chancellor (“Texas Shorty”) is a Texas bluegrass fiddler and a 2010 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipient. George Anderson is a bassist with a background in Gospel, Jazz, Rock, Country and Classical; as a UNT student, he performed in the acclaimed One O'Clock Lab Band. The concert on June 21 will be held in the Heard-Craig Hall (306 N. Church, McKinney).
For more information about the concerts, the Summer Music Intensives or to be on the mailing list for information about next year’s program, visit www.ArtsandMusicGuild.org.