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What is the Seattle Jazz Experience?

Randy Cole
Christine Jensen, composer-in-residence for the 2015 Seattle Jazz Experience

Initiated last year by Kent Devereaux, the former Music Department Chair of Cornish College of the Arts, the Seattle Jazz Experience is a youth jazz festival that presents two full days of workshops and performances this Friday and Saturday at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center.  It's  collaboration between Cornish, Earshot Jazz, Seattle JazzEd and Seattle Center.

Dr. David Deacon-Joyner, Director of Jazz Studies at Pacific Lutheran University is on the steering committee for the festival.

“The idea was to have a local jazz festival that’s on a national level. The real intention, primarily, was to bring at least regional attention to the Seattle jazz scene,” says Joyner. “Seattle has a world-class jazz scene. And it’s as distinctive as New York or LA or any other place would be. We wanted to showcase that, and the myriad of styles that jazz covers in Seattle, from straight-ahead to very experimental.  We wanted to bring both high school and college ensembles to the region so they could take a look at Seattle and its jazz scene.”

Hence the name “Seattle Jazz Experience.”

There are a number of high school jazz band festivals and performance opportunities all over the country, but far fewer at the college level.

This festival is built around a featured composer-in-residence, who provides compositions for the bands to work on, and who will do clinics with selected ensembles. This year’s featured composer is Christine Jensen, the Canadian saxophonist and composer who is a recipient of 5-star reviews in Downbeat Magazine and a Juno Award  (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy).

This year’s impressive list of guest artists who will do clinics and concerts:  the genre-defying group Kneebody, guitarist Julian Lage, trombonist Robin Eubanks, pianist Darrell Grant, drummer Eric Harland and bassist Scott Colley.

“Last year’s inaugural festival was just the greatest vibe in the world,” says Dr. Joyner. “The interaction with the kids, the after-hours jam sessions, the ensembles, it was absolutely electric. They did such a beautiful job. We know that this year it will be another knock-it-out-of-the-park experience.” He hopes the Seattle Jazz Experience will become a feature of Seattle’s arts community. “Seattle deserves to have a festival like this, one that showcases its local jazz scene, but also puts the invitation out to high schools and colleges worldwide. I think it’s important to highlight this region between Portland and Seattle as a bottomless pool of talent.”

The Seattle Jazz Experience is Friday March 13 and Saturday March 14 at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center.  You'll find the list of this year's participating schools, the concert schedule, tickets and information at

Christine Jensen plays her composition "Blue Yonder."

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.