Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A-JAM and the IASJ: It could be you next year!


Where is Odie Wallace?
This summer, bassist-drummer-guitarist Odie Wallace, a multi-talented Northwest Vista college music student, spent a week in Denmark, participating in the IASJ (International Association of School’s of Jazz) jazz meeting. The IASJ selected Odie to be the 2013 “super star” delegate from our A-JAM (Alamo Jazz Allstars Mentorship) program. Each year, a limited number of music students from all over the world are chosen by the IASJ to form no more than six student combos, small collaborative performing groups. 

Each group is coached by two teachers from the organization, all from top jazz programs in different corners of the world. The students spend an action-packed seven days learning together: rehearsing, performing, composing, attending concerts and workshops, participating in late night student jam sessions, and—yes—even doing some sightseeing. We call it “playing” music, but there is a lot of hard work involved! Odie Wallace will remember his experience with the IASJ for a long time. “Mind-blowing, enlightening, and inspiring” are a few of the words he used to describe it. 

How did Odie Wallace find his way to Denmark? A-JAM. Launched in 2010, A-JAM was created to provide opportunities for Alamo College students to succeed both locally and internationally in the world of jazz. An intercollegiate and intercultural project, it is open--by audition--to music majors from any of the five Alamo Colleges and Trinity University. Auditions are held each year in November (the week before Thanksgiving), at which time finalists are selected to form the A-JAM combo for that year. Contact Katchie Cartwright for more information. 

A-JAM prepares serious music students like Odie Wallace for high-level pre-professional experiences like the IASJ meeting. During the spring semester, The A-JAM combo meets for weekly rehearsals, performs locally, and is coached by top regional professionals and visiting artists. Among other events, they are the subject of a one-hour radio broadcast on KRTU’s South Texas Jazz Project, hosted by JJ Lopez, and a follow-up interview on KRTU’s Planet Jazz, hosted by A-JAM program director Katchie Cartwright. The 2013 A-JAM group featured student soloists Bianca Johnson (voice) from St. Phillip's College, Odie Wallace (bass) from Northwest Vista College, and Ben Whitehead from Trinity University.

Odie is the third student from San Antonio to participate in the international jazz meeting. Singer Jeané Gaines went to Brazil in 2011 as the first A-JAM super star; Stephen Bennett went to Austria in 2012 as the second. The experience of this yearly jazz meeting is the subject of a new documentary. You can watch the inspiring trailer to see the program’s vision in action. As Israeli filmmaker Leon Segal said, “It’s not just about the music.” All participants go back to their schools with energy and ideas that they share with their friends and colleagues back home. It’s not hard to see how these one-on-one experiences widen the local horizons exponentially over a very short period of time.

The A-JAM program gives San Antonio students a chance to learn their craft at home and to collaborate with a small select group of students and teachers abroad. It serves as a launching pad for serious students who want to make their way into the field, and gives them an opportunity to learn from high level teachers and to collaborate with the finest students in the jazz world.  Both at home and abroad, the program is sustainable, precisely because it is based on small-scale grassroots one-on-one experiences.

The 2014 jazz meeting will be held in Cape Town, South Africa in July. Auditions are the week before Thanksgiving. Listen up, jazz students. It could be YOU next year!
Follow the A-JAM Blog.
Contact Program Director Katchie Cartwright, 210-486-4828.