by Mary Wilcop, DownBeat
Dakota Austin, 12, was nervous but glowing when he stepped on the main stage of last summer’s Litchfield Jazz Festival to perform with Dave Brubeck. “As a rule, I never put children on stage with professionals,” said Litchfield Jazz Festival founder and Executive Director Vita Muir. But when Austin approached Brubeck after a question and answer forum, explaining that his dream was to one day play “Take Five” with him, Muir couldn’t object. Austin had already pushed the envelope when he gained admission to the Litchfield Jazz Camp in Connecticut—which occurs right before the festival—in 2007, two years shy of its minimum age requirement. In response to Austin’s request, Brubeck shrugged and directed him to his sax player, Bobby Militello, who agreed. Hours later, and with no rehearsal, Austin was welcomed onstage by Brubeck. “Bobby played alongside [Dakota] on bended knee and even let Dakota take the solo,” Muir said. “It was the moment of a lifetime for him.”
by Mike Shanley, JazzTimes
As jazz programs have established deep roots on the college level, so too have a number of summer camps cropped up to assist college hopefuls who wish to develop their chops outside the classroom. But as five particular camps attest, the camps aren’t just for kids anymore. Considering how jazz draws on a musician’s experience as well as skill, the camps work hard at providing a natural setting that allows musicians to grow.
Vita Muir, who founded the Litchfield Jazz Camp (www.litchfieldjazzcamp.com), as part of Litchfield Performing Arts, agrees that a non-competitive policy is important. “We’re not going to have a 13-year-old send us a tape and say, ‘Sorry, kid, you’re not good enough,’” she says. “Because it’s not about us, it’s about them. All they need is an interest in coming.”
Litchfield, going into its 13th summer, has four one-week sessions that take between
120 and 160 students each week. Saxophonist Don Braden serves as the camp’s music director, with guest faculty including Winard Harper, Jeremy Pelt and Avery Sharpe. When students arrive, they take placement tests that determine their skill level and knowledge of theory, which determines how they are placed in a combo class with
five to eight other players.