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 Friday, 27 November 2015
Jazz Thursdays With the Dakota Combo, May 10th PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Saturday, 05 May 2012

The Dakota ComboİAndrea Canter

“The Dakota Combo wasn't just about teaching or playing jazz (which I learned as well) but learning about the subtleties, etiquette, and life lessons that go into being a musician.”-- Carson King-Fournier, trombone, The Juilliard School (Dakota Combo 2008-09)


Saxophonist/educator Tia Fuller talks about the importance of “nurturing the gift as well as the talent... there are lots of people with the gift, but because it is not nurtured, it becomes null and void.” When it comes to young jazz musicians, one way to nurture the gift is to provide opportunities beyond what is normally available through school music programs and private lessons. This is the mission of the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education, and particularly its major partnership project, the Dakota Combo. The 2011-2012 edition of the Dakota Combo closes the Jazz Thursdays season at MacPhail Center for Music's Antonello Hall on Thursday, May 10th at 8 pm. This is a free concert.

Dakota Combo at WAshburn High SchoolİAndrea Canter

The Dakota Combo Project

Now in its sixth year, the Dakota Combo is a program of the MacPhail Center for Music in partnership with the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education. Initiated under the leadership of trumpet virtuoso/composer/educator Kelly Rossum, then Coordinator of Jazz at MacPhail, the Dakota Combo held its first auditions in fall 2006. With guest artist, saxophonist Bobby Watson, the first Dakota Combo performed at the Dakota Jazz Club in December 2006 and at other area venues and events in spring and summer 2007. In subsequent years, and expanding to a full school year, the Dakota Combos (selected each fall through open auditions) have worked with guest artists Delfeayo Marsalis, Irvin Mayfield, Tia Fuller and Jonathan Blake; have performed at area venues including the Dakota and Artists Quarter jazz clubs, Honey Lounge, and MacPhail’s Antonello Hall; have headlined the Youth Stage of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and Dakota StreetFest; opened the Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival; tour area schools each spring; and perform at MacPhail and DFJE fundraisers. The 2008-09 Combo recorded a CD of original music at Wild Sound Studios; the 2010-2011 Combo was one of 12 ensembles nationwide invited to perform and compete at the Charles Mingus High School Band Festival and Competition in New York City, bringing home the “Mingus Spirit Award.”


In addition to performances, the student musicians rehearse at MacPhail biweekly throughout the school year, where the emphasis has been on professionalism as much as improvisation and composition. Noted Rossum, the Combo program “provides the loftiest goal and final challenge to the state’s top high school jazz musicians. Plus, it inspires all student jazz musicians to pursue their own goals in music.” Graduates of the first five seasons have gone on to pursue these goals at such prestigious college programs as the Brubeck Institute, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, The Julliard School, Lawrence Conservatory, New School for Music, and more. Each Combo pianist through 2011 has also won a scholarship as a finalist in the annual Schubert Club/Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Jazz Piano Scholarship Competition; four Combo pianists also received the competition’s Peformance Prize.


When Rossum left the Twin Cities in 2009, the jazz program at MacPhail and leadership of the Combo passed to renowned bassist Adam Linz. Linz has high expectations for himself and his students. “I want all these kids to be professional, playing musicians. I want to send the seniors to college knowing that they are ready for the challenges that lay before them.” Under Linz, previous Combo students have participated in several workshops conducted by internationally acclaimed artist/educators, including Bill Frisell and Dave Douglas and spent a year studying and performing the works of Charles Mingus (in winter 2011). The current combo performed at the Jungle Theater in November 2011 as special guests of vocalist Connie Evingson; traveled to Duluth for the Head of the Waters Jazz Festival (March 2012);  performed at benefits for MacPhail and the DFJE (April 2012);  and toured area schools last week. The Combo hosted a Combo Festival at MacPhail in April, culminating in their performance with guest artist Adam Niewood in the evening’s Spotlight Series concert in Antonello Hall. This summer, the Dakota Combo will appear on the Youth Stages of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival (June 30) and Dakota StreetFest (July 28) and will open the Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival (August 18). They also plan to record a CD at Wild Sound studios this spring.

Meet the Dakota Combo

This year’s ensemble is 100% new to the Combo, with four seniors, one junior, one sophomore and one freshman, drawing from a wide area of schools throughout the metro area.

Patrick AdkinsİAndrea Canter
Patrick Adkins, piano (10th grade, Edina High School): Patrick was attracted to music as a very young child, starting classical piano lessons at age 6. He joined his school’s big band in 5th grade, but his real passion for jazz was kindled during a summer jazz camp at MacPhail, and he began studying jazz piano in 8th grade with Tom Pletscher (MacPhail). Patrick, who also plays trombone, has plenty to say about the appeal of jazz piano: “I like the versatility of a piano. You can create so many emotions, and play so many different styles on this instrument…I also like the challenge of maintaining good musicality on the piano. While you can obviously play multiple pitches at the same time, something the majority of instruments can't do, there is more subtlety in manipulating the piano's sound... The challenge is execution, and playing in a way that isn't an overkill of bells and whistles… It is very rewarding when I am able to play a song with strong musicality.” Duke Ellilngton and Dave Brubeck have been major sources of inspiration for Patrick, who also plays with the Minnesota Youth Jazz Band as well as Edina High School ensembles. As for the future, Patrick says “I don't have my mind made up that I for sure want to be a performer for a career, but I really don't see myself not working in the music industry somehow.”


Joshua Jones, tenor sax (11th grade, Minneapolis Southwest High School). Joshua found his way into jazz through the band programs at Field Middle Schools. He’s been playing saxophone for 8 years, and enjoys the variety of ensembles at Southwest as well as studying music history and theory through the IB program. Artists that have inspired him include John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Zoot Sims, Scott Hamilton and Stan Getz, because “They are just really enjoyable to listen to.” Among his favorite recordings he cites Blue Train (John Coltrane), Tenor Madness (Sonny Rollins), The Very Best of Stan Getz (Stan Getz) and Speak No Evil (Wayne Shorter). Music is a big part of his life, but Joshua has some other strong interests—math and physics, which he studies in honors classes, and soccer, which he plays with the Southwest varsity team as goalkeeper. When he is ready for college, he notes that “I would like to be able to find a way to pursue all three areas of interest.”


Henry MisaİAndrea Canter
Henry Misa, drums (12th grade, Avalon School, St Paul). Henry grew up in Chicago and recalls that his serious interest in music began when he saw the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play Shostokovich’s 10th Symphony. Earlier, he “begged my parents to let me begin piano lessons in first grade, a year earlier than when my brother had started.” Around the same time, he first heard Art Blakey and became interested in jazz. While living in Chicago, Henry continued piano studies and began percussion lessons. When his family moved to Minneapolis about six years ago, Henry continued piano studies and took up composition through MacPhail; he’s also studied drums with Kevin Washington and Greg Schutte, currently studying drums with JT Bates and timpani with Paul Babcock. “Drums chose me,” says Henry, “though I am a multi-instrumentalist. Piano is a frightening second major instrument. Composition, too. Piano, drums, and composition are all one instrument to me.” Henry’s influences are eclectic, from Ligeti and Messiaen to Thelonius Monk, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, Charles Mingus, Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky, and Craig Taborn. He used to play at Walker West and now, in addition to the Combo, plays with school ensembles, Modest Tchaikovsky (guitar, vocals, cello, drums) and Sins of the Flesh (guitar, drums). After graduation, he will attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison.


Samuel Roberto, tenor sax (9th grade, Pine City High School). Samuel is the youngest member of the Dakota Combo this year. His father introduced him to jazz through guitar and recordings, but initially Samuel was only interested in rock and heavy metal on guitar. After started saxophone, he go turned on to jazz by his teacher, Nathan Hanson. “Now I enjoy playing the saxophone and look forward to when my dad and I can perform jazz standards together,” he says. In addition to studying for the past two years with Hanson at the Music Connection in Forest Lake, Samuel studied last summer at the Shell Lake Jazz Camp and has played in the Pine City Middle School and High School bands, as well as rock guitar in a local garage band. Sam likes the saxophone because it “has a very rich tone to it, that if played well, can sound very moving, and can resemble many different emotions.” He’s found inspiration in the music of Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Nathan Hanson, and particularly in recordings by John Coltrane (Central Park West), Monk (Monk's Dream and Bolivar Blues), and Getz (Girl from Ipanema). Samuel tried out for the Dakota Combo after his combo experience last summer at Shell Lake. “Playing jazz with the Dakota Combo has been a fantastic learning and performing experience, even better than I had ever imagined.”


Thomas Strommen, tenor sax (12th grade, Wayzata High School). Thomas played clarinet before taking up tenor sax. He became interested in jazz in 6th grade, because it “connected with me more than the music I played with the school concert band.” His teachers have included Angela House-Gritton (director of music at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Plymouth); Greg Keel, Bryan Nichols, Adam Linz, and Phil Hey (MacPhail); and faculty at Shell Lake Jazz Camp (David Milne, Luke Gillespie, Dean Sorenson, Nick Schneider, Chris Olson, Kelly Rossum). He also studies with David Elmhirst, Dr. Donald Krubsack, Mark Gitch, and Chip Williams at Wayzata High School, and in addition to school bands, plays in the Minnesota Youth Jazz Band. Along with the Dakota Combo, he has played in MacPhail ensembles led by James Allen and Bryan Nichols. Citing renowned saxophonists Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Charlie Rouse, Chris Potter and Eric Alexander as sources of inspiration, Thomas notes that he finds the “fullness of the tenor sound as the most appealing aspect of the instrument.” After graduation he will attend the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and hopes “to have lots of time to practice alone, play with other musicians, and hear live music.”


Joe, Thomas and Samuel at October workshopİAndrea Canter
Joe Suihkonen, trumpet (12th grade, Minneapolis South High School). Joe grew up surrounded by music, as his dad played guitar in the local band, Out All Night. After starting guitar at age four, he moved on to drums and trumpet at 9. Joe remembers that his first jazz record was The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane's Live at Carnegie Hall, and particularly “the tune ‘Sweet and Lovely’ was what really made me fall in love with jazz music.” Joe was largely self taught on guitar, noting that he attributes “my musical ability to the fact that I was playing music long before I could read it.” He did study classical trumpet at school and currently studies jazz trumpet with Dave Jensen. As much as he likes the instrument, he also notes that “It's a hell of a lot of work…keeping your muscles strong enough to play [and] that sometimes playing actual music becomes pushed aside…not a whole lot of people play with very much sensitivity and they just exploit the instrument's ability to be loud and abrasive.” But he also notes that “I love playing the trumpet because of the energy and inspiration it gives me. Whenever I pick up my horn, a world of possibilities opens to me.” In addition to bands and combos at South, Joe plays with local rock band Joe & Kyle and free jazz group Bad Acid. Joe plans to study music in college, and “get a BA in Performance and one in Music Ed, then go out East to get my masters.” He will be attending Oberlin Conservatory with a music scholarship.


Sam Wildenauer, bass (12th grade, Minneapolis South High School). Sam started out on drums in elementary school, moving to guitar and electric bass in 6th grade and upright acoustic bass in 8th grade. He’ studied at the West Bank School of Music, Marcy Open School, and South High with Mike Leipold, Jeff Wilkomn, Adam Linz, Scott Carter and Milo Fine. His eclectic tastes in music include Sun Ra, Sleep, Milo Fine, lil b, Elliott Simth, G.I Gurdjieff, Cecil Taylor, Tom Waits, Sonny Sharrock and Bongripper. In addition to South High bands, Sam plays with South a free jazz ensemble, Respective Sounds Convergence Summit, Lazorbong, and Sam & the Wildenettes. He’s also performed at the Black Dog Café in St Paul with an ensemble of local veteran avant garde musicians, and opened for the Bryan Nichols Quintet at the Artists Quarter. Sam is contemplating his options after graduation with plans to pursue his interests in free improvisation. Chances are we will be able to hear him performing at the Black Dog and other venues!

 The MacPhail Center for Music is located at 501 South Second Street in the Minneapolis Mill District. Follow the Dakota Combo and other activities of the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education at and on FaceBook.

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