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Since 2005, KNKX's School of Jazz has provided mentorship, learning and performance opportunities to Western Washington middle school, high school and college jazz students. A cornerstone of the station's signature community outreach program, it has directly impacted thousands of jazz students, band directors and professional musicians. School of Jazz is sponsored by BECU.

KNKX Guest Student DJ Emma Usui-Villareal

Abe Beeson
Emma Usui-Villareal

Fourteen-year-old Emma Usui-Villareal is our very first middle school student DJ, and she already possesses a very discerning jazz sensibility.  Emma plays drums in the Eckstein Middle School jazz band. 

Emma's Playlist for Thursday, October 6, 8-9 p.m.:

1. "Deedle's Blues"--Diane Schuur (Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra)

2. "Moanin'"--Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers (Moanin')

3. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"--Andrews Sisters (20th Century Masters Collection)

4. "Jam with Sam"--Duke Ellington (Festival Season)

5. "The Heat's On"--Count Basie Big Band (Montreux '77)

6. "Scrapple from the Apple"--Dexter Gordon (Our Man in Paris)

7. "Memphis Stomp"--Dave Grusin (The Firm Soundtrack)

8. "Two Minutes to Midnight"--Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra (Two Minutes to Midnight)

9. "Easy To Love"--Diane Schuur (Timeless)

10. "All or Nothing At All"--Freddie Hubbard (Open Sesame)

11. "Perdido"--Duke Ellington (Festival Season)


Hometown: I was born in New York but I think of Seattle as my hometown since I've lived here for most of my life. 

Age: 14

Which instrument do you play and why?

I play the drums. The first reason why I started was that our school lets you choose art or music as an elective when you go into 6th grade. I chose music, which I'd never had the chance to seriously do. I then thought, "What would be the easiest instrument to play? Oh! The drums! Because you just hit stuff on rhythm!" I learned the hard way it was not easy at all and that every instrument is hard in its own way. The second reason why I chose the drums was that my mom told me told me my rhythm was significantly good compared to many others. She and a friend teach dance and they both thought that I would be a good match for a rhythm-oriented instrument. I'm very happy now that I took her advice and I also strongly despise myself and others for looking down at the drums as an easy instrument.

What's your all-time favorite jazz piece?

My all-time favorite jazz piece is "Perdido" by Duke Ellington, from the album "Festival Session." I included this in my playlist. This song is a very meaningful song for me because it was the first jazz song I listened to and thought was really cool. I was like, "Wow, real people are playing this? I wish I could do that!"

Who is your jazz hero?

I do not really know many jazzy people since I'm very new to jazz but I would say that my jazz heroes are the music teachers at Eckstein, Dr. Kent and Mr. Escobedo. Although she didn't teach me jazz, if Dr. Kent weren't my teacher, I probably would've never continued on with music. She gave me as many tips as possible and taught me many things that I needed to know. 

If Mr. Escobedo wouldn't have kindly let me join jazz, I wouldn't be here right now. He is an amazing person and he has taught me so much about the basics of jazz and he pushes me to go on to greater challenges everyday. Thanks to these two teachers for being wonderful directors. 

Why jazz?

In the beginning, I just wanted to play the drum set, not concert snare and bass drum. When I went to our school's jazz class that's held after school for the first time; I was so fascinated. Everyone was playing different instruments to create this one piece. Each instrument supported each other and how people thought of solos on the go were amazing. Then I found out I was getting so much out of just the warm-ups! I was even more surprised when everyone got their music out! When I went into 7th and 8th grade, I was also given the choice of going into concert band, but I wanted to keep learning more about jazz. There's so many beautiful things about it to learn and I didn't want to destroy the bonds I made with my new band mates and my instrument.

Social media: I don't have anything because I'm an immature 8th grader that sucks at time management.