Arts + Culture

Thelonious Monk fellows start 2015 on a high note

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Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble
Dawn Hamilton

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble took to the stage to perform two original jazz compositions this week for students in Ken Kragen's Music Industry 106 class.

UCLA’s Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble ushered in the winter quarter and the new year with a pair of campus appearances on Monday. Two original compositions were played for students in Ken Kragen’s Music Industry 106 class, which also featured a talk by legendary musician Herbie Hancock, chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and a professor at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Later in the day, the young musicians played a set at the Northwest Campus Auditorium to kick off “Stay Curious,” an open mic night for jazz artists organized by the Student Committee for the Arts at UCLA and UCLA Residential Life.

Dawn Hamilton
Grammy- and Academy Award-winning musician Herbie Hancock, chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and a professor at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, listens as the institute's student musicians perform.

Musicians in the ensemble, who are selected biennially by a panel of jazz greats, including Hancock and Kenny Burrell, director of jazz studies at UCLA, attend UCLA for two years tuition-free as master’s students and fellows of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. The well-regarded program, which welcomes six to eight members to each cohort, has been at UCLA, within the Herb Alpert School of Music, since 2012.

“This group is made up of some of the greatest young jazz musicians in the world,” said Daniel Seeff, West Coast director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, adding that players in the current cohort hail from as close as Van Nuys and Downey and as far away as Israel and Australia. “Once they become part of the program, they rehearse together every single day, and each week a different artist, like professor Hancock and others, come in to teach them. If you’re a jazz musician, it’s one of the greatest experiences you can have.”

In addition to mentorship from some of the leaders in jazz, including Hancock, Herb Alpert and Wayne Shorter, the students study music theory, composition and performance, as well as the business of music, marketing and outreach. The students also learn the art of jazz pedagogy and lead music education outreach programs for students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Next up for the seven-member group is a performance at the Jazz Education Conference in San Diego, set for today. Other dates include jam sessions at the Blue Whale Bar in Los Angeles on Jan. 13 and Feb. 9 at 9 p.m.; a free master class with American jazz double bass and jazz fusion electric bass player John Patitucci at UCLA’s Jan Popper Theater on Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.; and a free Fowler Out Loud show on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. at the museum. 

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