Thanks to the Durham Museum’s distance learning coordinator Mike Irwin for this guest post.Â
It was late afternoon and the current visitors at the Durham Museum began to filter out, replaced by Jazz enthusiasts of all ages ready for a concert to remember. They were here to be entertained (and educated) by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO).Â They certainly got what they came for!
Jazz at the Durham Museum in Omaha Nebraska? Three years ago the Durham began celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month and the interest from the community has been tremendous. Mick Hale, director of education at the Durham stated, “As a proud Affiliate of the Smithsonian we are always looking for ways to expand our relationship with the Smithsonian and to provide our community with access to great programs such as the jazz appreciation program provided by the SJMO. ”
The community offering began with an evening performance at the Holland Performing Arts Center by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.Â The evening opened with a special lecture by Dr. David N. Baker, the orchestra’s artistic and musical director, followed by a big band jazz performance.
The two-day “on-site” schedule was extensive, taking the SJMO to schools around the Omaha area for two and a half hour workshops connecting with over 400 students fromÂ eight high schools,Â two junior highs, and two colleges.
SJMO unpacked and set up for their final public performance at the Durham Museum’s Stanley and Dorothy Truhlsen Lecture Hall.Â The setting for the performance couldn’t have been more appropriate. The Durham Museum, formally a grand train station, was built in 1931 with a strong Art Deco influence. Thousands of passengers passed though the doors each day during the station’s operation.Â Today when you walk through the Great Hall you can almost hear a Count Basie or Duke Ellington melody. When all were seated and the lights went down, Dr. Baker began the evening with an engaging brief history of Jazz highlighting the great musicians and their contribution to this American musical phenomena. His low-key, humorous overview put the mid-western audience at ease and ready for a great jazz performance.
SJMO alto saxophonist Scott Silbert ‘s narration sprinkled between songs citing little know facts and tips on what to add to your jazz collection only added to the overall interest in the musical selection of iconic jazz tunes.
As one participant commented in an e-mail about the night, “Needless to say a fun time was had by all…and everyone was tapping their feet to the music all evening.Â I’m still tapping my feet this morning!”