Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, presented Doc Severinsen and El Ritmo de la Vida in August/September 2009.
This Performing Arts Fund–supported engagement included an evening with Doc Severinsen and El Ritmo de la Vida, who presented a program of classical Spanish with a jazz flair, plus American and Latino ballads with solo improvisations by each musician. Prior to this performance, the artists provided a week-long residency that included masterclasses with local 7th–12th graders and community members, as well as additional encounters with the artists.
“I enjoyed this concert, because it was the first time I had actually heard a jazz band. The moment that [was] unforgettable [was] when Doc Severinsen gave us a moment of his time, and the opportunity for us to improvise. After this wonderful concert, I called my grandmother in Mexico and told her about how this amazing eighty-year-old man played the trumpet. I’m thankful for the wonderful time I had at the concert not only because I like music but because it opened my heart to feel El Ritmo de la Vida [The Rhythm of Life].” —Latino student from a local school
There were a number of in-depth educational activities targeting orchestra and string students from local middle and high schools with this engagement; the overview of jazz improvisation is one of Indiana’s state standards for musical instruction in the schools. During one masterclass, the musicians explained and demonstrated their techniques and had the students try them. The group filled a rehearsal room and the session was very intimate.
“When it started, there were universal smiles. The musicians were so close, and the students just ate it up! For the students who were daring enough to try improvising in front of the group, there was a real sense of accomplishment. Seeing the musicians later in concert surely added an exciting sense of future possibilities if they continue to practice and improve.” —Brian Wiebe, director, Goshen College Music Center
The college staff felt it was very meaningful to have the students who participated in the masterclass present at the performance and to see the connection Doc Severinsen and El Ritmo de la Vida made with them and the rest of the sold-out audience. Doc Severinsen seemed quite earnest when he said he could imagine retiring in Goshen, and he praised the exemplary young people with who he had interacted with earlier in the day.
Without the Performing Arts Fund support, Goshen College could not have provided masterclasses to local students. By reaching new audiences of public-school students and their families, the college will build a broader and more diverse constituency of lifetime music lovers.
This engagement was a Star Project that deepened participation with a community-based residency and provided cultural access for immigrant communities (Latino students) by partnering with the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning.