Mixing and mingling with music

First Posted: 8/5/2014

For Abington Heights High School sophomore Johnny Tumavitch, playing music means more than just translating notes on a page, especially when it comes to jazz.

“It [music] makes you think differently about everything, even if you don’t realize it,” he said.

Tumavitch started playing guitar when he was 6 years old and he grabs any opportunity to play guitar, especially with others. The Jazz Institute at Keystone College gave Tumavitch that chance.

The Jazz Institute at Keystone College allows high school students, such as Tumavitch, and local musicians of all ages to spend a week learning about and playing jazz under the teachings of professional jazz musicians from Northeastern Pennsylvania and New York.

“It’s really fun and it’s a good experience to play with other people,” he said. This year is Tumavitch’s second year attending the jazz institute.

After the week-long Jazz Institute at Keystone College, presented in partnership with the Pennsylvania Jazz Alliance, the educational program culminates in a performance by the institute’s students at the summer Scranton Jazz Festival, which will take place Aug 8-10.

Marko Marcinko, one of the jazz institute faculty members and local professional jazz musician, emphasized the importance of morphing of jazz music and education.

“All jazz festivals worldwide try to have an educational component,” he said. “To educate the young people means growing our audience and understanding the art form.”

The jazz institute is in its seventh year at Keystone College, and Marcinko hopes the musical program will expand.

The local jazz musician said “the forward thinking of the individuals on campus got us here,” and he added that jazz education is very prevalent in other cities and parts of the world, so it needs to be important locally, too.

“All of society needs to be educated on the classical music of America, which is jazz. It’s the architecture and the foundation we have of everything in pop culture today,” said Marcinko.

Marcinko also enjoys watching repeat students mesh with new students to the program. “Everyone mixes and mingles musically and socially within five days,” he said.

Laura Bibbs, a senior from Lake Wallenpaupack Area High School, said the mixing and mingling at the jazz institute helped bring her out of her shell and pushed her to learn techniques beyond those in her high school concert band.

“Jazz is more creative and challenging because it’s not just playing random notes. There is organization and construction to everything,” she said.

Bibbs has been playing trumpet for seven years, and attended the jazz institute for the first time this year after she was referred by one of her teachers.

She said playing music is important because of its depth and breadth within learning. “Music is pretty much math, science, and every single subject in one. It’s every component of everything that we are going to learn,” she said.

Marcinko is also on the committee for the Scranton Jazz Festival and is excited to showcase the Jazz Institute at Keystone College students at their performance Sunday. He said audiences can expect “great, classic material played by a new generation.”

The jazz institute students will perform at the Scranton Jazz Festival at 4 p.m. on Sunday Aug. 10 on the main stage of the historic Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel in downtown Scranton.

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