SMF Jazz Academy to Broadcast Spring Virtual Performance Showcasing Musical Talent of Local Students on April 30

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

 Savannah Music Festival (SMF), a leading nonprofit performing arts organization, recently hosted a SMF Jazz Academy music performance featuring more than 25 Savannah-Chatham County Public School (SCCPSS) students on Saturday, March 27 at Juliette Gordon Low Elementary in Savannah, Ga.

The performance will be broadcast virtually Friday, April 30 at 7 p.m. on the Savannah Music Festival’s Facebook page, featuring Savannah-area public school students in grades 5-12 performing jazz standards like “C Jam Blues,” “All of Me,” “Perdido” and “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor.” 

SMF Jazz Academy students participated from a wide range of local schools, including School of Humanities at Juliette Gordon Low Elementary, Oglethorpe Charter School, Godley Station School, Marshpoint Elementary School, STEM Academy at Bartlett, Savannah High School and Woodville Tompkins High School. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SMF Jazz Academy transitioned to online learning for the 2020-2021 school year, added several new staff members and offered students virtual masterclasses and workshops led by SMF Jazz Academy faculty as well as other talented artists from across the United States. The SMF Jazz Academy’s first full year followed a successful Spring 2020 pilot semester at the School of Humanities at Juliette Gordon Low Elementary.

“Despite the challenges the pandemic posed, it has been impressive to watch our students' resiliency and musical growth over the course of the academic year,” said Jessica Messere, SMF Jazz Academy Manager. “We have one student who was new to the saxophone and the program, and now she’s soloing with her improvisations to songs from jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.”

An optional Small Combo group enabled students to take jazz to the next level, with morning outdoor practices every Saturday throughout the spring. Small Combo students quickly began playing songs together, complete with solos, improvisations and accompaniments.  

“Our program provides an opportunity for students to learn jazz and offers valuable lessons in self-expression, trust and camaraderie,” said Jenny Woodruff, Savannah Music Festival’s Director of Education and Community Engagement. “Each student learns how to create unique solos and to build a strong connection by working together.”

The SMF Jazz Academy program is open to any Savannah-Chatham County Public School student in fifth through twelfth grade who does not have a jazz band offered at his or her school. The program, which does not require previous musical experience, is designed for beginning, intermediate and advanced students. The online SMF Jazz Academy program includes free instrument rental as well as weekly private lessons via video, composition and music technology classes, virtual practice rooms, online master classes with guest artists and more.

The mission of SMF Jazz Academy is to lead positive and progressive change in Savannah by providing equal access to exceptional music education in a safe, accepting learning environment that supports each child’s development.

Thanks to the generosity of founding sponsors Ron and Susan Whitaker, the program is free to all participating students. In addition, the Hodge Foundation, Junior Jazz Foundation and Widespread Panic’s Tunes for Tots provide free instrument rentals to participants.