While the Wichita Jazz Festival is proud of its concert productions, the focus of the WJF has been to increase awareness and provide education to young musicians in the Wichita area. Our long-term goal is to help raise the next generation of jazz musicians in the greater Wichita area. As music education moves increasingly out of public schools and limited educational resources necessitate a focus on large-ensemble music, the opportunities for young musicians to learn about small-group jazz – the creative lifeblood of jazz in the last seventy years – have become few and far between. This gap in jazz education causes other lost opportunities for young musicians as well, including experience improvising, composing, and the chance to foster other basic – and employable – musical skills.

WJF Sessions

This year, the Wichita Jazz Festival is launching a pilot program we are calling WJF Sessions. It is an eight week class focusing on playing in a jazz combo, culminating with a performance at the opening concert of the Wichita Jazz Festival. Sessions are held at Air House Music Academy on Thursday evenings. The WJF Sessions is an "all-star" group featuring the top high-school-aged jazz musicians in the Wichita area, and is working with top instructors from the college level. Instructors for the combo are William Flynn, guitar professor at Wichita State University and former member of the One O'Clock Lab Band at the University of North Texas; Bill Harshbarger, local jazz musician/educator; and Gray Bishop, a local musician and educator. The WJF Sessions program will soon expand to serve students year-round.


In addition to working with the school system, the Wichita Jazz Festival seeks to provide educational events for the community at large. These events, which focus on both individual and group instruction in both technical and conceptual areas, take place at local community centers and are open to students of all ages. In the past, creativity workshops in this series have been hosted by international artists such as Lionel Loueke, Gretchen Parlato, Nicole Mitchell, and Linda Oh.

Our Boogie Academy program seeks to supplement existing school music education programs by placing a professional jazz musician in area middle schools to provide advanced instruction for talented young musicians. With these professional musicians -- Jazz Paras -- students will learn the basics of jazz improvisation, theory, and coordinating a small group. Students can then return to their original ensembles with a greater degree of confidence and understanding, providing an example for their fellow students and feeling more empowered as a creative individual. 

This program was piloted with four schools last spring and was received enthusiastically by both students and educators. We'll be continuing this program throughout the 2011-12 school year, hoping to expand our reach among Wichita area schools.