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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.

School of Jazz guest DJ for June: Elijah Washington

Incoming 8th grade reeds player with the Risdon Middle School jazz band, Elijah Washington joins the KNKX School of Jazz.
Abe Beeson
Incoming 8th grade reeds player with the Risdon Middle School jazz band, Elijah Washington joins the KNKX School of Jazz.

Elijah Washington, a 12 year old entering 8th Grade at Risdon Middle School in Newcastle, displayed maturity beyond his years in his role as the KNKX School of Jazz guest DJ for June.

Washington received a clarinet for his 7th birthday and “built up from there,” leading him to take on the bass clarinet. Playing on that instrument earned him recognition as one of the Northwest’s best student musicians from the Washington Music Educators Association.

Tenor saxophone was Washington’s next instrument, on which he said he’s “aiming to sound like John Coltrane.” He described his current sound as a “mellow-intense mix.”

Washington credited teachers and fellow students at Risdon Middle School, saying, “We’re working together, having a great time doing it. We can reflect on mistakes and the progress that we’ve made and move forward. It’s a really great environment to start learning jazz.”

Digging into his playlist, Washington offers the Coltrane classic “Giant Steps” and one of the biggest clarinet features in recorded music, Benny Goodman’s recording of “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

You’ll also hear the big bands of Count Basie and Buddy Rich, piano stars Oscar Peterson and Thelonious Monk, and Washington’s favorite singer, Nina Simone.

Though he’s not a singer, Elijah Washington finds value in the skill. “You’re singing through your instrument in jazz, you know. Laying on my back, having some time to myself, singing the songs I know… that helps me move forward in jazz.”

Washington is a remarkable young man, and his playlist features some of the most remarkable songs in jazz history. The selections in his show and his passion for this music are just the beginning of great adventures in jazz. Come along for the fun on KNKX.

Which instruments to you play and why?

I play the clarinet because it is my favorite instrument, and my dad got it for me for my 7th birthday. The specific clarinet that he gifted to me is a family heirloom that has spent 60+ years in my family. I also play bass clarinet to support the low sounds in my school band, and it took me to junior all-state. About a month and a half ago, I switched to tenor sax in jazz band to prepare for high school since the majority of high schools don’t allow clarinet or bass clarinet, with a few exceptions.

What is your all-time favorite jazz song?

My favorite jazz piece is "Exposition Swing" by Duke Ellington. My favorite performance of this song is by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Who is your jazz hero?

My jazz hero/idol is John Coltrane and/or Nina Samone.

Why jazz?

I love jazz because it just gets me in a good mood and in the groove. There are so many different varieties and the all sound great and are fun to play. My favorite part of jazz is improv. You can just jam out and express complex emotions through music.

Elijah's playlist:

  1. "Giant Steps" John Coltrane
  2. "April in Paris" Count Basie Orchestra
  3. "Feeling Good" Nina Simone
  4. "Green Onions" Booker T. & the MG's
  5. "C Jam Blues" Oscar Peterson
  6. "Groovin' Hard" Buddy Rich Big Band
  7. "What a Wonderful World" Louis Armstrong
  8. "Don't Blame Me" Thelonious Monk
  9. "Sing, Sing, Sing" Benny Goodman Orchestra
Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.