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A 24-hour view into the Folsom Jazz Festival

By: Craig Covello, Folsom Music Boosters President
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It was Friday night, around 7 p.m. The Folsom Jazz Festival would start in only 12 hours and be host to approximately 80 high schools, comprising roughly 130 bands. In total, we were expecting about 1800 kids and band directors. This is one of the largest high school jazz competitions in the State of California. It's a big deal among the music educators and I'm amazed it's organized and run solely by parent volunteers. My mind was mulling over a lot of details regarding food vendors, venue managers, scoring and schedules. These details were complicated by the fact that the festival would be held in two locations this year due to its growing popularity. Part of the event would be held at Folsom High School, but other performances and judging would occur at Rolling Hills Christian Church in El Dorado Hills. RHCC features a spectacular 1500-seat theater complete with a state-of-the-art audiovisual system capable of projecting images on three screens. High school jazz competitions usually don't get venues this nice, even when hosted at universities. My thoughts then turned to finances. Will we make enough money to keep this music program going into its 21st year? That was enough worrying. For the moment, I needed to focus on getting to the airport in time to pick up our guest artist from New York, Brian Lynch. His flight was predictably late, but there might still enough time to get him to rehearsal by 8 p.m. where the Folsom High One o'clock Jazz Band waited to play with this amazing trumpeter. This -- at least not for these high school students. Brian, on the other hand, was definitely a professional. One hour from now, our Folsom High jazz musicians would have the opportunity to rehearse with a 2007 Grammy award winner. That's what I call music education. Brian appeared on the airport’s escalator, wearing his distinctive circular hat and clutching a well-worn trumpet case. A casual conversation ensued in the car. I discovered that Brian lives in the Chinatown section of New York. We are the same age, 52, just like a deck of cards or weeks in the year. I thought, "This must mean something." After I listened to him in rehearsal later that night, I realized what this means. He has spent his adult life becoming an amazing jazz musician. I haven't. Rehearsal ran just past 10 p.m. Brian did not faint, but the poor guy still had not eaten dinner, so the two of us drove to a small Mexican restaurant. Over chips, guac, and a cocktail or two, we discovered that although we have very different careers and live at opposite ends of the country, we also have a lot in common. We are both married, we love jazz music and we both have an interest in video production. Did I mention we're the same age? I spent a little time bragging about my youngest son Cameron who plays bass for Folsom High, but most of the time I listened to Brian’s thoughts regarding his recording career, his interests and his job teaching music at NYU. It was fascinating. Folsom High was fortunate to have someone of this caliber performing with our student musicians. The next morning the jazz festival was packed. Despite the enormity of the event, everything ran smoothly. Our parent-volunteer/manager at the Folsom High venue, Kristen Smith, had things well in hand. I tried to do the same up here at Rolling Hills Christian Church. Around noon, Brian was escorted to the trumpet clinic where he held court over 200 teenagers. I took video of a master trumpeter teaching basic drills to newly-minted musicians. Most of them had no idea how good this guy is, but they came to realize his talent during the special concert later that evening which included local pianist Joe Gilman and the Folsom High One o'clock Jazz Band. Joe, by the way, also blew everyone away with his performance and musical “conversation” with Brian. (Editor's note: Joe is also well known for his performances at the Arts Building in Auburn as a fundraiser for PlacerArts called Jazz at 808.) What a great weekend! Kids from all over Northern California and beyond received education in jazz. About 50 trophies were awarded. Everyone was entertained. Local merchants made money. But I had the best gift. I made a new friend who happens to be a world-class, Grammy-winning trumpet player. Did I mention we are the same age? Pretty cool. To learn more about the jazz program at Folsom High Schoo, visit www.folsommusic.org.