Every August, some of jazz’s best musicians gather at the Newport Jazz Festival to entertain the masses of jazz, soul and music lovers alike. And for the first time in Rhode Island history, the state’s best student musicians will be included in the lineup.
At the Senior All State Jazz Band concert late last month, the Rhode Island Music Educators Association (RIMEA) announced that the 21 students and this year’s conductor, who happens to be from West Warwick High School: Music Director Metro Narcisi, have been invited to perform. Narcisi said that he, and the students, couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s a great opportunity for the best student [musicians] of Rhode Island,” he said.
When the announcement was made, the students “were ecstatic because it’s going to be the first and ever RIMEA All State Jazz Band to have this honor,” he added.
Stephen Toro, the president of RIMEA, told the Times that back in September 2011, he had been contacted by the Newport Festivals Foundation asking for information on RIMEA. They were inquiring as to what the Association does, its history, and more importantly, about the students selected for the All State bands.
At the time, Toro had no idea he was speaking with the Newport Festivals Foundation.
“They said they were involved in the Newport Jazz Festival and what I didn’t realize is that I was talking on a conference call… When they were inquiring about the jazz pieces, a third party walked into the conversation. They said it was George,” he explained.
Then, the pieces began to fall into place. George, as he was referred to on the phone, was George Wein, the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival. They discussed RIMEA’s jazz program in Rhode Island and told Toro they would call him back.
In November 2011, hundreds of students gathered to audition for the All State band parts. Twenty-one students were selected for the Senior All State Jazz band and Toro spoke with the Newport Festivals Foundation again. As Toro was detailing them of the students and audition process, he was told that they would like the senior jazz assemble to open at this year’s jazz festival in Newport.
“I was sworn to not say anything to anybody,” said Toro. “It has never been done before so it’s really neat.”
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