For some time there has been a gap in passing on this city's vast jazz legacy to inner-city youth. As a result, the wellspring of jazz for Indianapolis has suffered a major disconnect for four generations of learning, maintaining and performing this artform. Internationally revered jazz artists are unknown by the majority of those under age 40.
Hazel Johnson Strong hosts "An Evening of Jazz" at North Meridian United Methodist Church on Saturday.
There has been a grass-roots awakening among local jazz artists who perform in the tradition of Indiana Avenue and West 30th Street. A new non-profit organization has been founded by Hazel Johnson Strong, a major performing voice during Indy's golden era of jazz: the Inner-City Music School for young people ages 5 to 18, as part of the Brightwood Community Center.
Strong is now realizing a dream and a community need. She has been quietly working on this project for 10 years. Last week, a public announcement was made, calling for young aspiring musicians looking for lessons to check out the Inner-City Music School as well as a parent information meeting on how to register students for free lessons. According to Strong, 49 young people have registered and applications are still being taken.
The roster of local jazz artists who will be teaching on a regular basis includes people from the mainstream of today's jazz scene. Instructors are Clifford Ratliff, trumpet; Melvin Rhyne, keyboards/piano; Alonzo "Pookie" Johnson, saxophone/flute/clarinet; Frank Smith, bass; Larry Clark and Dick Dickerson, drums; Komoyaka King, percussion; Steve Weakly, guitar; Hazel Johnson Strong, voice/choir; Brenda Walls, jazz history/choir; and Tiffany Johnson, jazz dance.
The free classes are scheduled to start Saturday, April 9, 2005, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Brightwood Community Center, 2410 N. Station St.
The ICMS will hold a benefit concert Saturday, March 19: "An Evening of Jazz" will be held at the North United Methodist Church, 3808 N. Meridian St. in Fellowship Hall from 4 to 7 p.m. Special guests are the Melvin Rhyne Trio with Carol Harris, Indianapolis Women of Jazz, Hazel Johnson Strong & Family featuring Carl Hines, Frank Smith, "Pookie" Johnson, Clifford Ratliff, Steve Weakley, Larry Clark, Dick Dickerson and Komayaka King and more. Donations of used working instruments for immediate student use or a monetary donation to buy instruments are requested. All donations are tax deductible.