Band director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. High School Big Band, Travis W. Kimber, was on his way to becoming a lawyer when his advisors told him that employers were looking for people with majors outside the box. A music-lover and saxophone player since high school, he decided to add music education to his courses. “I studied pre-law and even took my LSATs,” Kimber says. “I was three months from graduating when I realized that being a music educator was my true calling.”
And he has not looked back. He’s been teaching music for 15 years, 11 of them at M. L. King. “I was very influenced by both my high school and college Band Directors,” Kimber explains. “I realize that I am a role model and I take that seriously. One of my great joys is that one of my former students just got his music educator certification and he’s now my assistant.” Of the 250 music students at M.L. King, 18 are in the Big Band. Preparation for the competition started a couple of months out, with rehearsals increasing two hours a day twice a week for the last three weeks. The week of the performance they practiced every day.
What advice does he give his students before they perform? He says, “Relax and have fun. The audience can feel your energy.”
Robert Jeffrey, band director at J.C. Young Middle School, got interested in music because of his two older sisters who were outstanding vocalists. One of them also started playing clarinet and when she lost interest, she passed the instrument on to her brother. For Jeffrey, that’s all it took. He joined the high school band and fell in love with jazz.
Jeffrey has been teaching music for 16 years, 13 of them at J.C. Young. He teaches 140 students in the Symphonic Band, Pep Band, Percussion and Jazz Ensembles. All 25 students in the Jazz Ensemble also play in the Symphonic Band.
Not only did Jeffrey’s students prepare for the competition in music class each week, but for two months they stayed after school one day a week for two hours. “Jazz has so many styles,” Jeffrey continues. “So I encourage my students to get familiar will all types of jazz. For instance we might talk about what swing feels like, and then really work on getting comfortable with the fundamentals.” What’s his advice for the kids before they perform? “Remember to enjoy the music and give yourself over to it,” he says. “What you put in, you get out.”
The 35th Annual Atlanta Jazz Festival is presented by the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, a division of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. Join the festival on Facebook at AtlantaJazzFestival. For more information, visit www.atlantafestivals.com.
Camille Russell Love, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said, “For the entire month of May we are partnering with parks, restaurants, clubs and venues around Atlanta to host jazz related events. We are renaming May this year and we’ll call it ‘31 Days of Jazz!’ We’ve got something for everyone...from the soulful sounds of the Mose Davis Trio at Sun Dial, to spicy Latin jazz at Fiesta Atlanta in Centennial Park, to legendary pianist Johnny O’Neal at the Loews Atlanta Hotel. We hope that people will get out and explore some new hot spots and eateries around the city, and truly get into the community spirit of the festival.”
Many of the events are free, but some are ticketed and there is an admission charge, added Love, who encourages everyone to pick up a brochure and enter the Passport Program contest. The grand prize includes a two-night stay at the Loews Atlanta Hotel, dinner for two at one of the festival restaurant partners, a commemorate t-shirt, poster, and a special VIP Experience for two at the festival in Piedmont Park.
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