What’s Working: Middle school students “jazzed” about band camp

What's Working

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — In tonight’s What’s Working, we take you inside a unique summer camp that is teaching middle school students an art form, that some say is dying.  We are talking about jazz. These students are keeping it alive.

The students are attending the Marcus Johnson Summer Jazz Camp at the Mobile History Museum. It is being led by Hosea London, the head of the Excelsior Band in Mobile.   London says the students come from different schools across the area, and they are at all different levels of music. Still, London expects a lot from them.

“My expectations are high. When you have high expectations for young people, they always come up to it,” London said.

Student, Sophie Rogers, is an eighth-grader at Clarke-Shaw Magnet School. She says she tried out for Jazz Band at her school last year and didn’t make it. That’s why she wanted to take on the challenge of the camp this summer.  She hadn’t played much jazz before now.

“I like the fact that it is a slower pace. I like the general sound of it and how its different than most music we play in regular band,”  Rogers said. 

The camp costs $50 per student for two full weeks. The kids even take a field trip to New Orleans to visit jazz landmarks like Preservation Hall and The New Orleans Jazz Museum. They also visited Loyola University’s School of Music.

Creola Ruffin started the Jazz Camp eighteen years ago. She also is the founding member of The Gulf Coast Ethnic and Heritage Jazz Festival.  She smiled as she walked into the room, and the children were making music!

“It is a wonderful feeling to see to see young people know nothing about jazz and play jazz,” Ruffin said.

London says he feels encouraged when he sees how talented the students are.  He even hopes some of them will become part of one of Mobile’s jazz bands one day.

“Some people think it’s a dying art form, but you would be surprised how many young people in the Mobile area love jazz and want to learn jazz.  It’s a genre we need to keep going. It’s an American art form,” London said.

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