The 67-member Symphonic Jazz Orchestra (SJO), the only ensemble of its kind in the country dedicated to the unique American genre of symphonic jazz – music that blends the American language of jazz with European orchestral traditions – held a special free educational family concert last year which featured the premiere of “Dark Wood: Duke Bass Concerto for McBride,” a commissioned piece by Grammy Award winning composer/keyboardist/ producer George Duke, written for and highlighting bass virtuoso Christian McBride’s talents on the acoustic and electric bass.
An opportunity drawing was held at the concert to raise funds for the SJO. Albert Courey, who has two children at Culver City High School who are involved in the music program, was the grand prize winner of a Deluxe Yamaha Keyboard. Courey recently chose to donate his prize to the school’s music program, which includes the Academy of Visual & Performing Arts program. Dr. Tony Spano, the long-time music teacher at Culver City High School and the Creative Director of Music and Co-Director of the CCHS Academy of Visual & Performing Arts was thrilled to accept this prized brand new instrument.
The SJO, led by its Music Directors George Duke and Mitch Glickman, is comprised of Los Angeles’ finest jazz soloists and studio musicians and is the only organization of its kind in the country, dedicated to blending the worlds of jazz and classical music with a mission to: Commission symphonic jazz compositions, a musical genre that blends the American language of jazz with European orchestral traditions; Perform commissioned works in concerts throughout Southern California; and Inspire the next generation of listeners through its Community Outreach Program and specially designed free Family and Educational Concerts.
Coincidentally, as part of the California Arts Council’s “Artists-in-Schools” program, the SJO (based in Culver City) offers a music program for second-grade students that has grown to include a weekly residency program for first-grade students and an Instrumental Workshop program for third-grade students that has been active at CCUSD elementary schools for the last five years.
The SJO has performed across Southern California at such venues as Royce Hall and the Ford Amphitheatre. Through its Community Outreach Program, the orchestra has served over 27,000 young people and their families with special family and educational concerts, master classes, workshops and assemblies.
Pictured above, on Friday, March 9, Neal Paton (left), Yamaha Pro Audio & Combo Division District Manager, Southern California; presented the Deluxe Yamaha Keyboard to Albert Courey (second from right), the opportunity drawing winner from the SJO with Dr. Tony Spano (right), Culver City High School music teacher at Culver City High School and the Creative Director of Music and Co-Director of the CCHS Academy of Visual & Performing Arts with Culver City High School music students.