Getting Jazzy with the Artists Collective


“Studying music enhances one’s being.” Those are the words musician René McLean shared with me on my last visit with the Artists Collective’s Youth Jazz Orchestra. The orchestra is a part of the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios teen apprenticeship program this summer. McLean is the Master Teaching Artist working with the young musicians as they hone their skills and work together to produce a jazz showcase for family, friends and the public.

René McLean, the son of Artists Collective founders Jackie and Dollie McLean, explained that this six-week program gives teens an opportunity to see the process of producing a show from start to finish in a very short time-frame. They experience growth and gain a level of professionalism that is not widely available to musicians their age.

As I sat among the musicians during an afternoon rehearsal I was struck by that level of professionalism McLean describes. The clock ticked closer to the end of their work day, but the apprentices showed no signs of fidgeting or anticipation for 4 o’clock. With their eyes looking intently on their charts and ears focused on each other and cues from their teachers, the orchestra played Fontainebleau. I sat next to apprentice Tavori Atkins from Manchester who plays percussion in the band. After they finished playing the piece for a second time, Tavori looked at me and said, “That one gives me chills.”  I couldn’t agree more. Listen to the orchestra on SoundCloud

I think back to what René told me, about how the study of music enhances one’s being. You can see this unfolding before your eyes in a Youth Jazz Orchestra rehearsal. Skills are being sharpened and confidence gained. They repeated songs over and over again, taking in feedback, embracing opportunities to learn, and improving both as individuals and as a group. Deeper than that, they were moved by the music they produced as a collective.

Being in the presence of these talented young people is pure magic. It enhances my being. 

Learn more about Artists Collective and other Neighborhood Studios from 2015.

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