The camp began a decade and a half ago with only 32 students and a one-week program, according to Lindsey Turner, who is the marketing director for both the festival and the camp.
“This year we have 525 students enrolled,” Turner said. “We have students from all over the country as well as foreign students.”
Musician Don Braden, musical director at the camp, has played with jazz greats Wynton Marsalis, Roy Haynes, Betty Carter and Freddie Hubbard, is the musical director for the camp.
“Jazz is such a great thing to study,” Braden said. “It’s the kind of music that is really fun and expressive, yet has quite sophisticated emotional elements that are positive and fun.
“Also it has a spiritual aspect that involves comradery and teamwork. It all ends up being a great combination.”
Braden said the teaching staff combines rigor and a relaxed approach.
“We don’t live on military time, or break people down with tough love, that’s not our culture,” Braden said. “We all lead from the front. Our main thing is showing our students the way. The camp faculty is made up of professional players.”
Assistant Director Albert Rivera started out as a student at the camp when he was 15 years old.
“Originally I lived in New York City and every summer while I was growing up I came up to the camp,” Rivera said. “I think many of the students come from the city, and when they come up here to Kent they see a whole different lifestyle. They start to understand that life isn’t just about their neighborhood. They learn there is a whole other world out there.”
Rivera said another benefit of the camp is that students meet other musicians, and many of them form friendships and bonds.
“Sometimes students wonder if there are others out there like themselves,” Rivera said. “It comes as a shock to them when they see there are hundreds of other students just like them.”
Rivera said the camp welcomes all levels and ages.
“Students also get to see a world-class faculty and professional musicians perform,” he said. “Usually, it takes a trip to New York City and it costs an arm and a leg to see these guys play.”
Throughout the summer, the camp will present 30 free concerts in locations in town by jazz camp students and faculty.
“Jazz is an amazing thing,” Rivera said. “One of the biggest attractions about jazz is that it’s a musical art form that started right here in America. Some parts of jazz are in other kinds of music, including rap, pop and hip hop. I think it will come back to the forefront.”
For more information about The Litchfield Jazz Camp, including The Litchfield Jazz Festival, visit the website at www.litchfieldjazzfest.com.
Click here to watch a video clip of Litchfield Jazz Camp students performing at the Kent Memorial Library as part of a free concert series, "Kent has that Jazz," presented by the Litchfield Jazz Festival and Camp.
BY SHAW ISRAEL IZIKSON FOR THE LAKEVILLE JOURNAL. READ ARTICLE HERE.