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Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Snohomish County entertainment
Homegrown jazz in Edmonds

By Diane Wright
Times Snohomish County bureau

Singer Ernestine Anderson, the headliner at Saturday's All-Star Evening Gala of the Edmonds Jazz Connection, moved to the Puget Sound area at age 16.
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Schedule of jazz performances

EDMONDS — Every morning of school, Aaron Voros rolls out of bed by 6 a.m. to get to class by 6:30. The class he can't miss is an hour long — every day, all year.

But then nobody wants to miss Jazz Ensemble I.

With the dedication of athletes, they don't skip Jake Bergevin's music class. Playing jazz in the morning sets up their day at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

"Often in jazz, they say that jazz is caught, not taught," said Bergevin, the school's director of bands.

"It's a connection with the kids where nobody can say, 'This is the note you have to play.' They just fall in love with it and get connected, not only to the music and the way it sounds but the fellowship of jazz musicians."

Edmonds-Woodway's jazz ensembles and other award-winning middle-school, high-school and college bands and vocalists will perform at the Edmonds Jazz Connection on Saturday. This day-to-night jazz festival is distinctly different from others. It's a homegrown, noncompetitive chance to play and hear jazz standards performed at a high level.

"By midday last year, (the crowd) was spilling out into the street," said Tam Osborne, the director of visual and performing arts for the Edmonds School District. "We hooked up outside speakers and piped the music out."

The Rotary Club of Edmonds Daybreakers started the festival three years ago, a big leap for a relatively small club. Club members lined up sponsorships, grants and other donations. The festival puts students on stage with the pros in classes and performances.

Edmonds Jazz Connection


Free performances by two dozen school jazz groups are scheduled from 10 a.m. to late afternoon Saturday at the Edmonds Masonic Center, 515 Dayton St. (big-band jazz); the Edmonds Theater, 415 Main St. (instrumental combos); and the Edmonds Floral Conference Centre, 201 Fourth Ave. N. (vocal jazz).

On Saturday night, Ernestine Anderson will appear in the All-Star Evening Gala, a paid event at 7 at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N. Tickets are $30 for reserved seats, $25 for general admission and $15 for students with identification. Tickets are available at www.jazzconnection.org, at Ticketmaster outlets, at Arista Wine Cellars, Bartell Drugs and Frontier Bank in downtown Edmonds, and at Bartell Drugs in Lynnwood.

Information: 206-835-8363.

Edmonds-Woodway freshman Elliott Gray, a pianist, went to the Jazz Connection last year as a spectator and this year will perform.

"Listening to those other people, you really get to learn what they do, and then you can try and reproduce that for yourself," he said. "It was really fun because they weren't as nervous as I think they would have been at a competition."

Drummer Voros, a junior at Edmonds-Woodway and a member of Jazz Ensemble I, is a state-level percussionist. In 2002, he was first in timpani in the Washington Music Educators Association's state competition.

With 20 percent of Edmonds-Woodway's student body in music-performance classes, there's a lot of competition through the year. But Jazz Connection, Voros said, "is laid-back. You get to play. It's a community-based thing. It's definitely something we work towards."

There's a lot of negative press about teenagers, Bergevin noted, and other generations don't always understand how intense school has become since they were in school.

"It's even more rigorous, and (they don't realize) how hard the kids will work on something to make it good, just because they want to be good," he said.

That drive toward music mastery fueled the earliest years of the evening's headliner, Ernestine Anderson.

The Houston-born singer came to Seattle at age 16.

"My music teachers in Houston were always pushing me to sing," Anderson said. "There was always somebody there to take me from one level to the next, one step to the next."

Her career has put her in the company of Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington, who, she said, "led the way." From Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center, Anderson has worked with Quincy Jones, pianist George Shearing and other jazz legends.

After 30 albums, she's still recording. Her 2003 compact disc, "Love Makes the Changes," went to No. 5 on the jazz charts this year.

As a singer, Anderson said, "you have to tell the story from your life experience. That's what the lyrics mean to you. Three different people look at a painting, a work of art, and they'd have a different conception. You're pulling from you."

Anderson's song selections will come from some of her most popular CDs, a treasure-trove of ballads and swing numbers from great composers: Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser, Hoagy Carmichael and others who define classic jazz.

She still tours and sings, but at 75, "it's a time of picking and choosing."

"I'm very fortunate to still be here and follow my passion and enjoy my family, which is No. 1 in my life," said Anderson, a grandmother of 13 and great-grandmother of four.

These days, she likes to give kids advice that has fueled her long career.

"Even now, you have to work at it, continue using it," she said. "Like anything, like athletes, they have to do a lot of things to arrive at being good. They can't just rely on talent alone. They have to work at it."

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or dwright@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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