LAUSD students open day two of the Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival

The Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival returned this weekend after a pandemic hiatus, and opening the show on Sunday will be some of the region’s brightest up-and-coming musicians — LAUSD students.

The Los Angeles Unified School District Beyond The Bell All-City Jazz Band is made up of the best student musicians from Los Angeles public schools. They are part of a two-day event hosted by Arsenio Hall and featuring big-name headliners like The Roots, Gregory Porter and Tower of Power.

“It’s the creme de la creme,” said JB DyasVice President for Education and Curriculum Development at the Herbie Hancock Jazz Institute and co-director of LAUSD Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Big Band. “We’re finally able to play together in person, and it’s amazing how well it’s gone over the past few weeks of rehearsals. I think this might be our best band yet.

Kai Tano, a tenor saxophonist in the band, just graduated from Taft High School in Woodland Hills. He is now majoring in music at Pasadena City College and hopes to transfer to a UC conservatory or music school on the East Coast.

Tano and Dyas spoke to our newsroom’s public affairs show AirTalk with Larry Mantle.

“Everyone in Los Angeles knows how famous this place is,” Tano said. “It’s a very surreal feeling to be able to perform on stage with the same people that we considered role models. And to be able to perform on such a stage with very talented high school players, it’s an honor to be right next to them playing these tunes.

While some jazz fans worry about how the art form may attract young listeners and musicians, Dyas said jazz is in good hands with these students.

“These kids are so into it and are so much more advanced than when I was their age,” Dyas said.

Students learned big band skills like playing in tune and playing with feeling, but they also discussed broader concepts like what jazz stands for and like teamwork and unity within diversity ethnicity, he said.

“And there’s probably no better example of democracy than a jazz band, because it’s individual freedom but with a responsibility to the band,” Dyas said. “And probably most importantly, it teaches everyone the vital importance of really listening to each other.”

The LAUSD All-City Jazz Band performance opens the second day of Jazz Fest on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Another group of LA students, LA County High School for the Arts Jazz, was supposed to play on Saturday.

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Willie J. Johnson