THERE are three premier annual jazz events in South Africa: the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the Johannesburg-based Joy of Jazz and the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival (SBNYJF) in Grahamstown.
The latter event includes an educational component and is a meeting point for aspirant jazz student musicians, jazz educators and professional jazz musicians of national and international renown.
The core business of the SBNYJF is to provide a forum whereby students and performers interact via the mediums of performance, rehearsals, workshops and lectures. Annually, there are several innovative opportunities for jazz artists which are mediated through the auspices of the SBNYJF.
There is the National Arts Festival-affiliated Young Artist Award winner for jazz, the recipient of this award is allocated a prime space on the public concert programme of the festival. In addition, every year the top jazz students in the country audition for a place in the National Youth Jazz Band (NYJB) and each year the conductor of this ensemble is selected from the pool of the country's top educators and musicians.
Perhaps for the first time in the history of the SBNYJF, both the 2013 Young Artist Award winner and this year's conductor of the NYJB were born and raised in Port Elizabeth.
Bass player Shane Cooper is the Young Artist Award winner and trumpeter Marcus Wyatt has been selected to conduct the NYJB. These are highly prestigious achievements and even though Cooper and Wyatt are graduates of the University of Cape Town, their initial musical training was in Port Elizabeth. This indicates that although the jazz scene in Port Elizabeth might be quieter than urban counterparts such as Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban, the level of music education is well on par.
This city has a proud history of excellence in music education, the music departments at local schools and the university are staffed by an abundance of talented musicians and educators who choose to live and work here.
We can all take pride in what Cooper and Wyatt have accomplished. This year the SBNYJF will run from June 26 to July 2 in Grahamstown.
Student application forms and details will be available next month on www.youthjazz.co.za.
Thanks to those of you who contacted me with suggestions on how we might work together to develop jazz in Port Elizabeth. One of the objectives of this column is to keep jazz lovers informed of local gigs, so please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any such information you would like to share.