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Jazz 101

December 15, 2001



It's clear to anyone watching that Ron Carter loves music.

As he stood on the stage at Southwest theater in El Centro on Friday for the first of four clinics through Saturday, Carter's passion and excitement were evident when speaking to a group of Imperial Valley music students.

His talent also is obvious.

Even when he sent out just a few notes on his saxophone, students exchanged impressed glances, some applauded.

Carter was in El Centro at the request of Central Union High School band director Renee Baker. An associate professor of music and coordinator of jazz studies at Northern Illinois University, Carter is involved in the high school band competition Essentially Ellington through Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Baker said she invited Carter to host the clinics to prepare her band members for this year's Essentially Ellington contest.

Inviting other schools to take part was an easy decision.


"We rarely get professionals to the Valley," Baker said.

"To be exclusive isn't the way to be," she said.

Though Carter is an accomplished jazz musician and performer, he said he still enjoys working with students and teaching.

"I guess it's the enthusiasm (of students)," answered Carter when asked what he likes about instructing.

Passing on knowledge and love for the music also are things Carter said he likes about teaching.

For many kids who may not be star athletes or outstanding students, music may help them discover talents they didn't know they had, Carter said.

"Music brings out creative talents. Jazz brings out improvisation talents," he said.

Jazz, with its rich cultural history, also gives students who study its evolution a greater cultural awareness, Carter said.

Carter started his own career in music as a child singing in church. By eighth grade he began playing instruments and was in his high school band in Georgia.

"Music is my hobby and how I make my living," he said.

When asked if he likes performing or teaching more, Carter said, "I don't think I could do one without the other.

"I think you can't motivate kids without playing," Carter said.

"He's a natural, good teacher," Baker said.

"He's been doing it for a long time," Baker said. "His background brings a lot."

Besides his experience and talent, Carter's personality plays a big role, too, Baker said.

"He's totally involved with them (the students)," Baker said, adding Carter will sing and play along with the students while offering encouragement, too.

Carter's easy-going style of talking to students made Friday morning's clinic sound more like a conversation than a lecture.

During his visit, Carter was scheduled to perform with Jimmie Cannon's Valley Jazz in concert Friday night and give four clinics to students on Friday and Saturday.

"I'm hoping that they (students) will understand jazz more deeply" after the clinics, Baker said.

"I'm hoping he can offer them a way to make it their own," Baker said.

>>Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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