MSJ in the News

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Maryland Summer Jazz set to sizzle, swing
Instructional camp, collaborative concerts highlight eighth season

by Will C. Franklin, Special To The Gazette

Professional saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk had been asked over and over. There are places for youngsters to learn jazz, but nothing for adults.

After searching in New York and Boston, Antoniuk came to the conclusion that there really was no outlet in the area for younger and older adults to practice, learn and jam.

“I had enough people bugging me about it and it seemed like a good idea at the time,” Antoniuk says. “That’s really when Maryland Summer Jazz was born.”

In this, the eighth season of the Maryland Summer Jazz Festival, Antoniuk and co-founder Paula Phillips have put together a camp for musicians ages 16 to retirement. All skill levels are welcome.

Although there are many camps for children in the area, such as the Washington, D.C.-based JAM Camp for students in middle and high schools, Maryland Summer Jazz remains the only adult camp of its kind. During the main three-day event, participants work with professional musicians who enjoy sharing their knowledge with others.


From Maryland Summer Jazz Festival Renowned jazz performer and Maryand Summer Jazz Festival cofounder Jeff Antoniuk.

Phillips agreed with Antoniuk, knowing there were people who took a different career path but still had that musical passion inside of them.

“There was definitely a need for an adult jazz camp in this area … in fact, in the region,” Phillips says. “We’ve drawn from about 12 states a year.”

“What was happening for adults, there were a lot of opportunities for them to take lessons as an amateur or a semi-pro, but there weren’t any opportunities for them to play in groups, and of course jazz is all about playing in a group, listening to other players improvising. This was a really key ingredient.”

The camp, according to Phillips, is targeted for people comfortable with reading music.

“Our camp is aimed at folks who read music and our combo classes are grouped by ability level,” she says. “So, you have anyone from a classical pianist who reads well, but does not know how to improvise and substitute chords vital skills for jazz players or you might have someone who does not read very well at this stage but may even be a pro in another genre of music such as R&B.”

Lynn Veronneau is just one of the success stories to have emerged from the Maryland Summer Jazz camps. A two-time participant, the performer has since gone on to release the albums “Joie de Vivre — Joy of Living” and “Jazz Samba Project.” Her first album rose to No. 9 in the World Music category of the JazzWeek radio charts.

“[Maryland Summer Jazz has] been the missing piece in the puzzle,” Veronneau says via email from Switzerland, where she’s playing in the CERN Hardronic Music Festival. “I was working toward a full move to jazz for years but hadn't quite figured out how to put all the pieces together.”

Although Veronneau’s star continues to be on the rise, she still takes the time to master the craft with her former Maryland Summer Jazz instructors.

“I've been working with Jeff now for about a year. We gig and record together. Alison Crocket [a mainstay faculty member at Maryland Summer Jazz] remains my coach and is just incredible,” says Veronneau. “You get so much value out of working with these individuals and the students that surround you. It's hard to explain what it is. But I wouldn't be where I am today with two successful albums, a tour and very busy schedule without MSJ.”

Maryland Summer Jazz provides a small, nurturing environment between instructor and student, with a ratio of seven participants to every one faculty member, according to Phillips. Faculty members are picked by Antoniuk and Phillips shortly after the end of each camp for the following season.

“We want artists who are very strong as performers, recording artists and also have strong teaching credentials, preferably being a jazz professor in a respected university jazz program,” Phillips says. “Some of the performing artists are so strong and have done some teaching and so can be entrusted with our students despite not having a master’s degree or Ph.D. in jazz performance.”

This year, world-renowned trumpeter Ingrid Jensen will bring her years of experience and expertise to the camp.

“[Teaching jazz] is high up on my list of things I take seriously in life,” says Jensen. “I find the more I learn to verbalize and communicate what I have to say the clearer my ideas become for myself and, in a weird way, that makes me a better band leader and a better musician.”

Jensen is no stranger to Maryland Summer Jazz. She was part of the faculty in 2009, where she jammed with professionals and amateurs.

“It was really fun,” Jensen says. “There were people who were doctors and scientists, lawyers and they just really love to play for the joy of it. It’s always a lesson for us who get to do it as a full-time career to experience that kind of innocence and open-mindedness.”

The camp, which costs $564 to attend (scholarships are available), can be intense at times, with times slotted for group instruction, master classes for one-on-one work and general jam sessions with other participants. In the end, however, the participants really bring home a complete experience, Antoniuk says.

“I’ve had participants come up to me these are grown men in tears, crying because they’re happy because they never thought they would be able to do this,” Antoniuk says. “Halfway through the first day, I’ve had people come up really with tears in their eyes thanking us.”

Maryland Summer Jazz faculty members will perform in concert on July 24 at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. From there, the festival will wrap up on July 27 with a Double Dose of Jazz at Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville, where faculty members and camp participants will play together. The Blues Alley show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22. The Saint Mark’s performance is slated to start at 7 p.m. for the student concert, followed by an all-star performance at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20, $5 for children 12 and under.




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