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The Commons
The Arts

Jazz Center marks end of workshops with concerts

For information regarding this workshop and related concerts, visit the VJC’s website at, or call 802-254-9088.

Originally published in The Commons issue #420 (Wednesday, August 9, 2017). This story appeared on page B1.

PUTNEY—The Vermont Jazz Center is in the midst of the 42nd iteration of its summer jazz workshop.

The weeklong program takes place on the campus of The Putney School and offers an opportunity for intermediate- to professional-level students from down the street and around the world to polish their improvisational and musicianship skills.

The workshop began in 1974 when famed Hungarian guitarist Attila Zoller formed the Attila Zoller Guitar Clinics. These informal programs were fundamental in the development of young musicians like Peter Bernstein, Helmut Kagerer, and many others who would come to Zoller’s rustic home in Newfane and study with him and other masters.

The program attained nonprofit status in 1989 when Zoller took on a board of directors, registered with the state, and conscripted friends like Joy Wallens-Penford, Howard Brofsky, and Gene Rush to help with the curriculum and organization. To this day, the VJC honors Zoller’s immense spirit and attention to quality.

Over the years, the Summer Workshop has grown in numerous ways, most notably through increased numbers of students and staff, but also by developing a vocal program under the caring guidance of Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton.

Because the workshop has taken place now for 19 years at the Putney School, a sense of rhythm has been achieved through repetition. The community simultaneously grows outward while getting deeper: Returning students visit each summer to nourish friendships and develop their musical skills. Many students and faculty consider this week in the country the highlight of their year.

There exists a natural, intergenerational balance where participants of all ages learn from each other, gleaning from both the wisdom of jazz’s “old school,” the pedagogical advancements put forth in today’s developed system of jazz education and the freedom that is synonymous with the word “jazz.”

The Vermont Jazz Center’s Summer Workshop emphasizes the importance of improvisation and small-group dynamics, encouraging participants to find their own voices using the jazz language. Courses offered include jazz theory, master classes in each instrument, focused listening, and faculty led ensembles. The atmosphere is friendly and productive; participants and teachers form bonds that last a lifetime.

This year’s program will feature approximately 55 instrumental and 20 vocal students under the tutelage of over a dozen highly regarded musician/teachers. They will meet and enjoy the excellent musical facilities at the Putney School; they will unite in instrumental and vocal ensembles and each day partake in master classes, formal performance groups, and classes in jazz composition and theory.

In the evenings, evoking the Zoller spirit, students and faculty will jam until the wee hours of the morning. The students will offer a performance on the final evening of the workshop; the faculty will deliver their own on Thursday evening. Both concerts will take place at the Michael S. Currier Center at The Putney School.

On Aug. 10, at 8 p.m.the Vermont Jazz Center Faculty Concert will present vocalists Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton, Jason Palmer (trumpet), Jeff Galindo (trombone), Scott Mullett, Michael Zsoldos (saxophone), Dominique Gagne (flute), Luis Perdomo, Harvey Diamond, Ray Gallon, and Eugene Uman (piano), Marcus McLaurine, Malik McLaurine, George Kaye, David Picchi, and Cameron Brown (bass), Franciso Mela, Brian Adler, and Claire Arenius, (drums) and Julian Gerstin, percussion.

The ticket price for the faculty concert is $20, $15 for students. Local music students are admitted free of charge.

On Aug. 11, at 8 p.m., the VJC Summer Workshop Student Concert will showcase faculty-coached student ensembles with numerous vocalists and several piano trios.

This concert will be divided into two sections, the first starting at 3:30 p.m. and the second show resuming after a dinner break at 8 p.m. Singers will be accompanied by a professional jazz trio and the piano trios will be assisted and perform with a faculty bassist. Also performing will be five faculty-coached ensembles, usually composed of two or three horns, piano, bass, and drums. For the student concert, a $5 donation is suggested.

All concerts will take place at The Putney School’s Michael S. Currier Center and are accessible to all.

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