The Thompson Jazz Studies Program continues to set the standard for excellence among its peers: pianist Paul Shinn, trumpeter Josh Reed and saxophonist Otto Lee were all recently selected for a prestigious, invitation-only Program for Jazz at the Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute in Illinois. Drummer Dru Heller was also invited to attend but was unable to make it.
The weeklong program in mid-June helps musicians hone their small ensemble improvisation skills. Students will spend most of their time rehearsing with a revolving door of other musicians, focusing on performing well with changing personnel.
Shinn – who recently began composing music, as well as performing – says the chance to work with so many new musicians is something he and the others relish. “I’m happy to be able to collaborate and share different compositional perspectives and techniques with other young jazz composers, along with the faculty of jazz masters,” he says. “I'm always looking for new ways to find different sound landscapes and approaches in the jazz idiom.”
Ravinia’s program is intense – seven days of non-stop jazz. Lee says that immersion is what makes it so valuable. “This summer program provides a unique experience where the musicians can focus on music completely without having to worry about living expenses,” he says.
The three CU students will join just 12 others selected from universities around the country, and will work with a prestigious group of faculty – including Rufus Reid, who gave a master class and performed with the Jazz Ensemble and combo at CU back in February.
Reed says Reid’s visit was one reason he and the other students were eventually asked to join the program. “He invited the four of us to the workshop following his visit here,” Reed says. “If it wasn't for the jazz program bringing Rufus Reid to CU this year, none of us would have been offered this opportunity.”
Jazz Studies Program Director John Gunther is excited for the students. "This is really a fantastic opportunity for Paul, Josh and Otto to be mentored by Ravinia's great faculty, and to play with their peers who represent some of the best of their generation from around the country,” he says.
Shinn credits the jazz program for preparing him and the others for the experience. “It does an amazing job of bringing in a wide variety of guest artists that help to further inspire the students here to explore their own individual musical path.”
Reed adds, “All of the professors have mentored us to help achieve a level where we could be invited to such a program. They really take an interest in our careers and give us the support we need.”
The Program for Jazz begins Saturday, June 13, and culminates with a performance of original compositions at the annual RSMI Jazz Grandstand concert on June 19.