Jazz St. Louis Impacts Students Across Missouri with Creative Collaborations

Phil Dunlap


2013 MO All-State jazz band final performance

Every January for the past 35 years, (this year 1/23-26) thousands of Missouri students, teachers, parents, organizations, and institutions come together to celebrate music education at the Missouri Music Educators Association Conference (MMEA), held at the Tan-Tar-A resort in Lake of the Ozarks. Four days of concerts, master classes, and clinics are the draw, and while not the most compelling location for a state-wide festival, it is always a fun hang. This is also the place where the Missouri All-State ensembles rehearse and perform, including the All-State jazz band – of which, nine of the 19 members are participants in our JazzU program.

Over the course of a year, Jazz St. Louis has cultivated a meaningful partnership with the organization responsible for the All-State jazz band, the Missouri Association for Jazz Education (MOAJE). Together with Jeff Melsha (MOAJE president) and Chris Miller (MMEA VP for Jazz) we set about trying to figure out ways to make the jazz experience at the conference the best it could be. We decided to start with the All-State jazz clinician, settling on Terell Stafford as our first pick. Terell was agreeable and finished his stint as the MO All-State jazz clinician on January 26.


Terell Stafford performs at the MOAJE Jam Session

Over the course of the four days, Terell led rehearsals and clinics, performed for students and teachers at the MOAJE jam session, and sat in with Jim Widner’s big band for their annual Friday evening concert. The week ended with a performance by the 2013 MO All-State jazz band, conducted by Mr. Stafford. In all, approximately 5000 people were reached over the four day festival.


JazzU student, Ben Steger with Terell Stafford

Reflecting on the week, I was struck by the buzz created by our partnership. The idea was to be able to have an impact on students and teachers state-wide as we are currently only able to offer programs in and around the St. Louis area. Working with MOAJE and MMEA was a way that Jazz St. Louis could elevate its visibility in ways not normally possible. People from the western and southern parts of the state see what we are doing, and they want to be a part of it.

This venture also demonstrates how creative collaborations between organizations can have a positive impact on students. When we work together, great things can be accomplished. This year at MMEA, we were able to create an amazing educational experience for thousands of students and teachers. Mission accomplished!

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