A Week with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

JMI were very fortunate to spend an entire week with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra from the 4th to 9th September, 2023. We’re still buzzing from all the amazing experiences we had, so we thought what better way to do so than to share with you what the week looked like for JMI students and staff! A special thanks to QPAC for hosting the orchestra for 3 days, offering some amazing concert and educational activities.

Monday 4th September

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) arrived in Brisbane on the Monday to perform their first concert at QPAC “All Jazz is Modern”. They opened up their soundcheck for JMI students to attend, where pianist Dan Nimmer stuck around to answer questions from the excited and enthralled JMI cohort in attendance.


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One of the finest big bands in the world today then treated Brisbane audiences to a set of the music of Duke Ellington.  The second set featured music composed and arranged by members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, including compositions by Ted Nash, Carlos Henriques and Vincent Gardner.  After a thunderous standing ovation, Wynton returned to the stage with Obed Calvaire (drums), Carlos Henriques (bass) and Dan Nimmer (piano) for a blistering version of Cherokee. An amazing way to finish the first night with JLCO in town!

Tuesday 5th September

After an incredible first concert, the JLCO backed it up with a morning matinee concert for school students. It was such a thrill to see a packed QPAC Concert Hall full of so many different schools, with the young students in attendance lapping up a full hour-long performance from the orchestra. Following the performance, Wynton and Vincent Gardner stayed back for an open Q&A for the students in attendance. A real privilege for all the young budding jazz musicians in the room to be able to interact directly with these jazz legends.


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Following the morning concert, the JLCO delivered the final concert of their Australian tour to a sold out audience at the QPAC Concert Hall, Journey Through Jazz”, performing the music of Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck and many more. A special mention goes to tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover and trombonist Elliot Mason who delivered absolutely ferocious solo features. The members of the orchestra then attended an after-concert function at QPAC that JMI staff and students were fortunate enough to attend.

QPAC CEO, John Kotzas, made a special mention of JMI’s founder Greg Quigley, stating that:

without Greg and JMI, QPAC would not have been able to establish the connection they have with JLCO in bringing them to Brisbane again for the third time since 2016.”

Wednesday 7th September

If the first two days of the week couldn’t have been better, JMI students were in for a real treat for the next two days. Wednesday started with JMI students receiving two workshops at the QPAC Concert Hall. The JMI Jazz Orchestra spent an hour with saxophonist/clarinetist Victor Goines, workshopping through the pieces Harlem Airshaft and Rockin’ In Rhythm from the Essentially Ellington library. This was followed by a 3rd year jazz combo receiving a workshop with trumpeter Marcus Printup. JMI’s CEO Nick Quigley was in attendance at the workshops and remarked:

“To be able to get access to the finest jazz musicians and educators in the world is such a thrill for our students. Both Victor and Marcus were so giving and generous with their time and knowledge, delivering some key information with poise and humour.”

Later that afternoon, trumpeter Kenny Rampton came along to JMI to run a free trumpet workshop supported by Brass Music Specialists focusing on techniques for using the plunger mute, including Kenny’s signature Hirshman KR Indigo Plunger Mute. JMI brass students, staff and other high school teachers made it along to the workshop where Kenny was incredibly giving of his time.

Following the workshops, JMI were incredibly fortunate to host the JLCO for an Aussie-style BBQ and jam session to finish off their month-long stay in Australia. Staff, graduates and students rubbed shoulders with the orchestra members throughout the halls of JMI, with some of the JLCO even getting up to jam with JMI students! What a thrill!

Thursday 8th September

After a whirlwind few days in Brisbane, and almost a month in Australia, most of the JLCO left for the airport to head back to the States, while Vince Gardner (lead trombone) and Sherman Irby (lead alto), stayed on for two more days of education and performances specifically with JMI! Vince and Sherman spent the morning speaking with JMI students, answering questions related to their careers, their approaches to jazz, to practice, to life. It was an inspirational Q&A session for JMI students in attendance.

Following the morning session, Vince and Sherman workshopped JMI 1st to 3rd year students in our Bachelor program, providing them with invaluable information and guidance on how to continue their development and their journey through jazz. Vince has come to JMI for workshops since 2014, but this was the first time that JMI has hosted Sherman. Upon working with the JMI students, Sherman remarked:

“I love the fact here at JMI that the students are happy to be around the music, to play the music, and they want to be here. I see the joy in their faces, how they cheer each other on, how they listen to each other, it’s such a positive thing to be around. To see that here in Brisbane is fantastic”.

Closing out a long day of workshops, Vince and Sherman performed a concert at JMI Live to a packed audience. Easily the biggest crowd we’ve had at the venue since COVID, Vince and Sherman shared the stage with JMI staff Dan Quigley (trumpet), Paula Girvan (piano), Jess Spina (vocals), Ben Hauptmann (guitar), Gary Eldershaw (drums), Nick Quigley (bass), and very special secret guest in Roger Manins (saxophone) who happened to be in town from NZ. Performing a 2-hour long set of standards, the concert was a memorable way to finish an amazing day at JMI.


Friday 8th September

The week finished off with the Essentially Ellington Festival featuring Vince Gardner and Sherman Irby, held at Marist College Ashgrove and produced by JMI. The festival is a non-competitive, education-focused big band festival for high school big bands. A total of 12 Brisbane-based high school big bands participated in the festival, where they performed repertoire for Vince and Sherman which was recorded with their real-time adjudication comments. After their performance, each band received a 45-minute workshop with Vince or Sherman, working through how to improve the band’s sound, swing feel, phrasing and overall musicianship.

Brian L’Huillier, the director of Iona Big Band stated:

“My boys are buzzing after spending time with Vincent and to find a professional like him who is excellent with high school kids is almost unheard of. His feedback was great and we’ll be able to grow and improve and keep fostering a love and appreciation of music through jazz amongst the boys.” 

Additionally, Will Audley from Beerwah SHS shared that:

“…everyone from Beerwah, students, staff & parents thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being involved with the Essentially Ellington. It was a great learning experience and gave us lots to work on for the future… Please pass on my personal thanks to Sherman. His friendly demeanour and deep insight was great and I myself gained an enormous amount of knowledge from the session.”

JMI and Jazz at Lincoln Center have been delivering the Essentially Ellington festival in Australia since 2014, having reached over 3,000 high school students and over 500 music teachers in that period of time.

It was an amazing end to a wonderful week that everyone at JMI will be remembering for a very, very long time.

Now, back to the practice room…..

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