Niles West band to perform with NIU
If You Go
What: Concert featuring the Niles West Jazz Ensemble and the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Ronald Carter, as well as guest-soloist drummer Dennis Mackrel
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Robert L. Johnson Auditorium at Niles West High School, 5701 West Oakton, Skokie.
Updated: November 13, 2012 12:32PM
Students in the Niles West High School Jazz Ensemble will be treated to a special music lesson this week from jazz artists from Northern Illinois University.
Led by NIU Jazz Ensemble director Ronald Carter and soloist drummer Dennis Mackrel, the 18-member Niles West Jazz band will meet after school Friday with NIU jazz band members for a three-hour clinic focused on instruments and jazz style.
Then at 7 p.m. Niles West students will open a free public concert with three jazz songs before the NIU Jazz Ensemble performs for the rest of the evening at the high school’s Robert L. Johnson Auditorium.
“It’s rare to have a band of this caliber with a famous drummer like Dennis Mackrel performing at a school for a free concert,” said Jason Brown, fine arts director at Niles West. “It’s a great event and a high-quality performance so we’re hoping to attract a good-sized audience.”
Friday’s clinic is the third put on recently by the Niles West Fine Arts Department, with an aim of connecting nationally-known jazz professionals with music-minded students.
Past guests include Johnny Lee Lane, a percussion teacher for the Tennessee State University drum line, and Jack Cooper, a professor of jazz studies at the University of Memphis.
“We believe exposure is the key to success,” Brown said. “For students to have their music validated from someone out in the jazz field really turns the light on for them by making them see the importance of their music. We hope it will inspire the students to continue to strive do better.”
Constantly searching for ways to improve resources, Brown said he is talking with Lane — who also works for drumhead manufacturer Remo — to get the company to donate items to Niles West.
Brown also was instrumental in establishing a connection with NIU. Carter has served as a mentor to Brown since he was in the NIU professor’s band group years ago at the East St. Louis high school he attended.
“He’s the one who really influenced me to pursue music education and do what I’m doing today,” Brown said.
Led by director Justin Johnson, the Niles West Jazz ensemble includes 18 students who also play instruments in the regular school band, but allocate time each week to practicing jazz.~.