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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 Alaska Airlines and BECU.

Jazz students at Bellevue College show off many skills

Under the direction of Jim Sisko for the past seven years, the jazz program at Bellevue College is emphasizing a more diverse set of musical skills. The well respected big band remains, but students are focusing more on small groups, improvisation, arranging and composition. When Sisko brought an all-star combo from the college into the KNKX studios, he told us that new focus is paying dividends.

Their mentor, saxophonist and musical innovator Greg Sinibaldi shares this sentiment. He’s just achieved a master's degree in music, and told us how important it is for students to “not be afraid of who they are” musically.

“Being an artist in our current society is a radical act,” Sinibaldi says. “It takes a lot of courage to do it, and I think taking that chance is what jazz is all about.”

Certainly, the confidence in these young musicians is blossoming. In the KNKX studios, the Bellevue College combo showed off their musical personalities, and multiple talents.

Aiden Ward-Richter played piano on his own composition, “Samba for Heather.” He named it for his mother, as a way to make up for starting a fire in her kitchen. He also moved to the drum kit, replacing talented drummer Cameron Olson for another band original, “Humble Mind.”

That song was written by pianist Yusi Liu, who based the piece on the beautiful Wayne Shorter ballad “Infant Eyes.” She told us her musical plans after Bellevue College were taking her to New York University, to continue her studies in the world of film scores and varied compositions.

Austin Denton and Christian Nicholl both showed individuality and impressive soloing on tenor saxophones. Bassist Matthew Crissey was solid, especially handling tricky rhythms on an Ignacio Berroa arrangement of “Night in Tunisia.” Sisko, lending some of his own trumpet work for this session, picked up the complex version from working with Berroa in the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra this spring.

Considering the quality of Puget Sound area high school jazz programs, we’re lucky to have such an impressive jazz education program at  Bellevue College.

1) Samba for Heather (Aiden Ward-Richter)

2) Humble Mind (Yusi Liu)

3) Night in Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie)

Greg Sinibaldi – baritone and tenor saxophones

Austin Denton – tenor saxophone

Christian Nicholl – tenor saxophone

Yusi Liu – piano (“Humble Mind,” “Night in Tunisia”)

Aiden Ward-Richter – piano (“Samba for Heather”), drums (“Humble Mind”)

Matthew Crissey – bass

Cameron Olson – drums (“Samba for Heather,” “Night in Tunisia”)

Jim Sisko – trumpet

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