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home : features : schools & education September 14, 2014


5/21/2012 9:46:00 AM
Jazzing it up
Vax toots, tutors and treats young students with jazz tunes
The Mike Vax Sextet performs at Liberty Traditional School May 17, 2012, in Prescott Valley, Ariz. Vax performed and talked about jazz, blues, and rock and roll to the elementary and middle school students as part of his Educational Outreach program.
Courtesy photo/Sue Tone
During a break between sets, middle school students from Liberty Traditional School step up to the stage to ask questions and meet with members of the Mike Vax Sextet, a jazz group that performs for schools in its Educational Outreach program. Mike Vax plays trumpet and his wife Peggy, in red, plays trombone.
Courtesy photo/Sue Tone
During a break between sets, middle school students from Liberty Traditional School step up to the stage to ask questions and meet with members of the Mike Vax Sextet, a jazz group that performs for schools in its Educational Outreach program. Mike Vax plays trumpet and his wife Peggy, in red, plays trombone.
+ view more photos
The Mike Vax Sextet performs at Liberty Traditional School May 17, 2012, in Prescott Valley, Ariz. Vax performed and talked about jazz, blues, and rock and roll to the elementary and middle school students as part of his Educational Outreach program.
Sue Tone
Reporter

Liberty Traditional School students rocked out Thursday to Dixieland and big band jazz tunes, compliments of the Mike Vax Sextet and Vax' Educational Outreach program.

Toward the end of the day, and with less than a week of school to go before the summer break, LTS students gave their attention to the music of the sextet members: Vax on trumpet; Peggy, his wife, on trombone; Dave Russell on sax; Jack Petersen, lead guitarist; Daren Burns, bass guitarist; and Larry Cantor on drums.

Vax opened his program by marching with Russell into the gym and onto the stage playing the New Orleans' standard, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

"That was one of the oldest jazz tunes there is," he told the fifth- through eighth-grade students in the first segment of his program.

Vax talked about the influence of the blues, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, and rock and roll, playing tunes along the way. He introduced the members of the band and each one played a sample riff to show off their instrument. He also answered questions from the students.

In between the older students and the second set with younger students, Vax and band members mingled with the middle school band students.

Eighth-grader Micah Pals plays percussion, starting on drums in fifth grade.

"I like the whole jazz flow of this," he said. Micah has earned a spot next year on snare with the Bradshaw Mountain High School Drum Line, and had plans to shop for a drum set this past weekend.

Zack McKittrick, sixth grade, is in his third year playing guitar and bass. He borrowed Burns' guitar for a few minutes.

"It felt good playing a professional instrument. It takes a lot of finger work to hit all the notes," he said, calling Burns' performance "phenomenal."

During the second portion, Vax asked students to sing along to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," then had them bouncing and moving as he jazzed up the melody.

To a student's question about how he "got good," Vax said it was because of the dreaded "p" word - practice. Another student asked how many orchestras or groups with whom he had played.

"I have no idea. I'm in my 46th year on the road playing in big and small groups," Vax said. "This is how we make our living."

Vax performs for schools as part of the Vax Educational Outreach program and does not charge for the assemblies. HUSD middle school band teacher Tom Hansen said he was a fan of Vax, and approached the school's parent-teacher organization with the idea of bringing Vax to the school.

At the end of the first segment, Gina Steverson, PTO president, presented a check for $300 to Vax for his educational program.

For more information on Mike Vax, visit www.mikevax.net.



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