After a few days to recoup I wanted to write a bit about my experence with Steve Holley and his bands at Kent Denver School and his "Caleb Chapman's Sound House" bands. Frankly I was astounded! I arrived Wednesday April 22 and attended one of Steve's latin band rehearsals. Right away I was impressed with how autonomous these kids were, It was almost like they ran the rehearsal themselves. A common theme with Steve's bands as I was to find out.
Thursday was a busy day rehearsing and running the bands. So many talented students. Steve began each rehearsal reviewing the last gig each band had which happened to have been just a couple of days earlier. some of the bands play up to 60 gigs a year, so they get a lot of practical experience. Something that just can't be taught in the classroom. The students had many constructive suggestions and were off and running. Later that night I played with The Quincy Ave Rhythm band and The Blackmer Big band. It was an amazing night, Besides Caleb Chapmans Bands in Salt Salt lake I had never seen students that we so enthused and supportive of each other. There was so much talent and so many smiles. As the seniors in his bands were graduating soon, they all took time to thank Steve for his stern but effective teaching style and how much they learned from him, I must attest to the effectiveness as I was so impressed not only by the students musicianship but by their confidence especially when public speaking. Steve also makes sure each student gets a chance to play frontman (or woman) and announce tunes and players. At the front of the stage on the floor every student from the other bands would dance and cheer their fellow musicians on stage. I didn't notice a single student that didn't seem sincerely excited and supportive of their fellow students. Usually that's not the case. After the show ended, I was treated to the biggest surprise, EVERY student stormed the stage and proceeded to break down the risers, carry off the amps and coil up all of the cords. It wasn't necessarily planned or structured, they all just took it upon themselves to get it done. It was kind of a sight to see as they figured it out. Later I learned that Steve instructs them to make it happen, whether it's at a big school concert or their own combo gigs. So many lessons about being a musician are learned on the gig. It took me personally a while to become seasoned. To learn about the little things that make gigs go smoother. Perhaps many of these students will not go on to be professional musicians, but they learned many things that transcend just a music gig and apply to any job, profession or endeavor.
Friday consisted of my clinic and a concert with the Soul Confluence band. I covered how Big Bad Voodoo Daddy got it's start, how it's redefined itself over the years and then I talked about some of my rhythmic concepts that I think contribute to my own personal sound. And how to identify and cultivate concepts to develop the students personal sounds. Shortly thereafter I played a set with the Soul Confluence band. I was again taken with the energy of the students. And by the way that they perform. Unlike many school jazz ensembles or concert bands, all of the kids knew their parts without sheet music. And the difference ALWAYS shows, whether it's a school aged band or a pro band, memorizing your music always makes for a more entertaining show. They sounded great and unlike most "School" bands they looked great too!
If only Steve Holley could be replicated and sent all over the country, his method of high expectations and real world experiences make for an amazing program. These students are learning life lessons that will go well beyond their musical experiences.