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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

New Jersey Youth Symphony Announces Inaugural Jazz Residency


Dennis Mackrel, assistant chair and professor of jazz studies at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, will teach in-residence a series of free in-person clinics at the New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS). The program will run from October 2021 to April 2022.

The NJYS Artist-in-Residency program responds to the organization’s mission to train and foster the next generation of young jazz musicians and offer accessible, high quality performing arts education that sparks personal growth and builds inclusive communities. 

While in residence, Mackrel will lead six clinics for high school and college jazz students as well as jazz educators on an array of topics, including concert preparation, jazz history, a study in jazz styles, and improvisation. Launching with Mackrel are newly appointed Director of NJYS Jazz and Jazz Orchestra Dion Tucker, composer and trombonist, and Director of NJYS Big Band Gregory Williams, longtime Garden State educator and bassist. NJYS intends to expand the division of study and invite additional artists to continue to develop the art of jazz within its ensemble and orchestral program.

Said Mackrel, "Although I've been blessed to work with some of the greatest musicians in Jazz, I've learned that there is no greater blessing than to be surrounded by young musicians with a genuine desire to learn. To be given the opportunity to help them in any way is as much a privilege as it is an awesome responsibility, one that I'm grateful to Artistic Director Helen H. Cha-Pyo and the New Jersey Youth Symphony for giving me."

Said Cha-Pyo, “We are extremely excited to welcome our first Artist-in-Residence, Dennis Mackrel, to the New Jersey Youth Symphony. His expertise and experience will help elevate our young musicians’ understanding of Jazz to a new level, and they are extremely lucky to be learning from a highly respected performer, composer, and educator. These six Sunday afternoons will be a rare opportunity for any local jazz educators and performers to come and observe Dennis working with our students in big band rehearsals as well as sectionals and combo sessions.”

As Artist-in-Residence, Mackrel will work with NJYS’ young jazz students in six monthly clinics from October to April. These clinics are free and open to New Jersey jazz students and educators to attend and observe. Mask wearing and proof of Full Vaccination Card required at the door. For more information, visit NJYS.org.

Described by the Los Angeles Times, "Mackrel's drumming, especially well-displayed in his brushwork solos on ballads, was illuminated by his far-ranging experience and his skills as a composer and arranger." Dennis Mackrel is a noted jazz drummer and highly respected composer/arranger and conductor whose work has been recorded and performed by the Count Basie Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band, WDR Radio Big Band (Germany), Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw (Holland), Kl├╝vers Big Band (Denmark), and the McCoy Tyner Big Band, whose Grammy-winning CDs include Mackrel’s arrangements.

Mackrel has won numerous awards including Who’s Who in Music, A National Endowment for the Arts grant for composition, and Outstanding Alumni from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is an experienced jazz educator who conducts master classes, seminars, and workshops throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, and the United States.

The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS), founded in 1979, is a tiered orchestral program offering ensemble education for students in grades 3-12 across New Jersey. NJYS has grown from one orchestra of 65 students to over 500 students in 15 different orchestras and ensembles, including the internationally recognized Youth Symphony. NJYS ensembles have performed in venues including the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Carnegie Hall, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. NJYS has received numerous prestigious awards for its adventurous programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and has had six European tours, including participation in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Festival and Competition (Vienna), winning First Prizes in July 2014 and 2017.

Now in its 43rd season, NJYS continues to achieve musical excellence through intensive instruction and high-level performance. Under the guidance of a talented team of conductors, coaches, and teaching artists, students are immersed in challenging repertoire, learning the art of ensemble playing, and exploring their potential in a supportive and inclusive environment. NJYS remains committed to programming works by diverse composers and featured 20th century African American and women composers such as Duke Ellington, George Walker, Yvonne Desportes, Emma Lou Diemer, Julia Perry, and Florence Price.

The New Jersey Youth Symphony is a program of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts. Wharton is New Jersey’s largest non-profit performing arts education organization serving over 1,500 students of all ages and abilities through a range of classes and ensembles. In addition to the New Jersey Youth Symphony, programs include the Paterson Music Project and the Performing Arts School.