Ben Sidran to teach jazz workshop
CARBONDALE – Whether tickling the ivories on stage or working with students in the classroom, jazz musician Ben Sidran is often on a whirlwind tour as a performing artist.His trip Monday through Wednesday to the Roaring Fork Valley will be no different.As part of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass (JAS) Artist-in-Residence Program, Sidran will work with students in Carbondale, Glenwood and Aspen for three days. Sidran and his son, Leo Sidran on drums, and Billy Peterson on bass end their visit with a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Thunder River Theater in Carbondale.Sidran has myriad accomplishments in the music world. In addition to performing nationally and internationally throughout his career, he: is a songwriter, with numerous credits, including Steve Miller’s hit song “Space Cowboy” composed the soundtrack for the acclaimed film “Hoop Dreams” scored the documentary “Vietnam: Long Time Coming”, which won both the Aspen Film Festival audience award and an Emmy
hosted National Public Radio’s “Jazz Alive,” which received a Peabody Award; has hosted VH-1 television’s “New Visions” series, which received the Ace Award for best music series has recorded 25 solo albums, including the Grammy-nominated “Concert for Garcia Lorca” has produced recordings for artists such as Van Morrison, Diana Ross, Mose Allison and Jon Hendricks authored two books on the subject of jazz – “Black Talk,” a cultural history of the music, and “Talking Jazz,” a series of conversations with well-known musicians; shares his knowledge and love of jazz through educational programs across the states.He says it’s a good time to be involved with young musicians, with some 500,000 students of jazz in the nation.
“I’ve done a lot of educational stuff. It’s never been better. More kids are studying jazz than ever before,” he said. “It’s a very healthy time for this.”Sidran is the second artist in the JAS in-residence program this year. Corky Siegel visited valley schools in January. The itinerary will likely consist of Sidran and fellow musicians visiting the classrooms, critiquing students’ current work, some lecturing, performing and jamming together. They’ll be in the middle and high schools of Aspen on Monday, Glenwood on Tuesday, and Carbondale on Wednesday. Despite the packed schedule, Sidran said these types of programs hold tremendous value for youth and provide positive reinforcement in an area that is short-funded. “I feel that the arts are the key to learning. Some people say the arts make up the cake, and it’s extra. But I say the arts are the appetite for learning, not the cake,” he said, adding that it also allows professional musicians – particularly in jazz – to “carry on the tradition” of teaching younger musicians by playing side by side. Chris Bank, the director of in-school programs for JAS, additionally credits such programs for helping young artists apply what they’ve been studying. “If the kids don’t have an application for this stuff then it’s kind of a waste. What we’re doing is giving them more venues to apply this stuff,” said Bank, who is also the band and choir teacher at the Waldorf School and has been involved with music programs throughout the valley. He explained that seeing a performance by a professional musician is valuable, as well, but that those “limited” interactions may not motivate the students to further pursue music.
Venues such as the artist-in-residence program and Battle of the Bands “complement their regular experience,” he said. “When it’s all put together, it creates an opportunity for a number of kids to feel more involved and engaged.”Other music endeavors that Banks has worked on with JAS – and that are available to young valley artists – include summer camps, performances at the Carbondale Mountain Fair; festivals on the Aspen mall, after-school programs, trips to the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Festival; and a new program offering free lessons. Bank noted that working with the professionals helps aspiring musicians better understand how to make a living playing music. “For a lot of these guys like Ben and Corky, they are traveling all over the world. In order to do that, you might have to make a few sacrifices. It may sound glamorous, but wait until you’ve slept 24 hours on a plane,” Banks said. Yet, according to Sidran, those sacrifices are worth it when he’s on stage. In his life as a musician, he feels best when he’s performing. “I love playing. It’s a lot of fun. I suppose it’s why we keep up with it even it it’s sometimes difficult or not economically the best pursuit,” Sidran said. “When playing that two-hour set with friends, that’s when I’m happiest.”He hopes to share that with his Carbondale audience. “I hope they feel slightly transformed. Maybe better, maybe happier. We’re going to enjoy ourselves, so hopefully everyone else will.”