Healdsburg Jazz Festival receives grant from James Irvine Foundation for new countywide project to engage the public in the Arts

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival (HJF) is launching the HJF Freedom Jazz Choir in early 2013 to continue to expand its musical offerings and the jazz experience to Sonoma County residents, students and to new venues. Thanks to a two-year, $65,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation, Healdsburg Jazz Festival will embark on a new community participation program creating a jazz choir representing the cultural diversity of Sonoma County. Participation will be open to all county residents at no charge and regardless of age, background or musical ability.

The project will be led by Marcus Shelby, a well-known Bay Area jazz composer, educator and musician. Shelby and Healdsburg Jazz Festival will assemble the new jazz choir and hold a series of rehearsals, all culminating with a series of Civil Rights-themed concerts, featuring Shelby’s musical compositions based on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and the spiritual and blues roots of America’s jazz music. The new choir will perform three concerts per year with Shelby’s 19-piece jazz orchestra.

A call for choir members will go out in January with rehearsals scheduled to begin in February and continue through April. Shelby will lead the choir through exploration of the choral arrangements for “Soul of the Movement” featuring original songs and rearrangements of “There Is a Balm in Giliad,” “Amen,” “Black Cab,” “We Shall Overcome,” “Go Tell It On the Mountain” and “We’re A Winner.”

The Joyous Noise Community Baptist Church Ensemble, of Santa Rosa will also participate and contribute music from its gospel repertoire. 

“This is about using music as a unifying force,” said Jessica Felix, founder and creative director of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. “We want to involve Sonoma County’s ethnically diverse population by offering direct performance opportunities for participants to work alongside professional musicians, creating a profound cultural experience and fostering cooperation and understanding while expanding awareness and access to jazz.”

Photo by Christian Kallen / HJFThe Healdsburg Jazz Festival is celebrating its 15th year in 2013, and is presenting a 10-day festival from May 31 to June 9 at various Healdsburg venues. Festival headliners and artists will be announced in early 2013. Besides the new Freedom Jazz Choir, HJF has presented Operation Jazz Band in various Healdsburg and northern Sonoma County schools for many years and also partnered with Khalil Shaheed and his Oaktown Jazz Workshop. HJF has featured such jazz greats as Dave Brubeck, Charles Lloyd, McCoy Tyner, Fred Hersch, Pharoah Sanders, Charlie Haden and many others including several NEA Jazz Masters.

Last year — and continuing this year — Shelby and Healdsburg Jazz presented a month-long series of classroom workshops and a performance at the Raven Theater based on the teachings or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Students from eight local schools were introduced to the musical forms of field hollers, spirituals, blues and Civil Rights protests songs. Shelby’s instructions also included the tracings of these authentic American art forms to present day jazz music.

In 2014. Shelby, Healdsburg Jazz Festival and the Freedom Jazz Choir will reassemble for a series of new rehearsals and concerts based on the words and life of Harriet Tubman, with original scores by Shelby titled as “Bound for the Promised Land,”

This project is supported by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation. The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society. The Foundation’s grantmaking focuses on three program areas: Arts, California Democracy and Youth. With about $1.6 billion in assets, the Foundation made grants of $65 million in 2011 for the people of California.