BCS Spotlight

Barry Harris is not exactly a household name unless you are a Jazz musician. He is a gifted piano player who goes back far enough to have played with Charlie Parker. However, I think his personal greatest achievements are actually as an educator. Barry Harris is the authority from which to learn Jazz.

I was able to attend the Straight Ahead Jazz Camp at Jazz Institute of Chicago located within Columbia College. They day I attended, I sat through four different classes. Three featured Mr. Harris.

The first session of the day was appropriately called “The Truth About Jazz”. Barry lays down the law concerning music profoundly citing, “Jazz is the continuation of Classical.” I say Jazz is just The Blues with an education - the education coming from Classical music. Harris spoke of how much of the rules of music are not taught correctly. I agree with that. He even joked around a bit saying, “I shouldn’t teach students, only teachers.” Most music teachers I have met in my years as a growing musician could certainly learn a thing or two from Barry Harris.

“The Truth About Jazz” was followed with story time between Harris and Joe Segal, the owner of Jazz Showcase. The two musicians, aged eighty-eight and ninety-one years old, offered captivating accounts from there many years in the industry, as well as some really strong opinions about Jazz. One would be fortunate to learn from a great such as Harris and Segal. It’s also fascinating from a historical standpoint when you realize that these gentlemen are some of the last links to the era. With only a handful left in Chicago, I was amazed to hear about how many Jazz clubs there were at one time. Hearing the two Jazz great talk was not only eye-opening, it could easily make one long to have lived and participated in the days when Jazz was still so fresh and widespread.

After the highly stimulating two-man panel had ended, I sat in on a Jazz Improvisation class. That was interesting. It is always nice to be reminded that there still are people out there studying music. It’s so easy to let machines make music these days. I’m sure Mr. Harris would agree with me when I say art and music classes are very important. It is beneficial to learn things in school other than the basics. Fact is, kids who learn music do better in their other subjects. I am very appreciative that there are centers like the Jazz Institute of Chicago out there for people to hone their musical ability and where creativity is encouraged.

The last class I attended was a jam session hosted by Mr. Harris. I had hoped Mr. Harris would be playing but such was not the case. Rather, it was a mix of students and attendees performing with Mr. Harris directing traffic. It was a thrill to see the renowned keeper of the flame of bebop pianism leading such fine musicianship!

I would like to thank the people there running the workshop. It was an awesome experience that got better and better as the day progressed. Jazz Institute of Chicago is a wonderful environment for all musicians alike. Some of the students were “scary” good if you understand what I mean. It kind of blows my mind seeing young people who like Jazz. It’s unlikely the genre of music fell into their lap. No. These are people that had to look for it, which somehow adds a greater appreciation for its students. And the fact that Barry Harris is still teaching helps keep the form alive. Hopefully, some of these talented young people will continue and master the practice so that years from now they become the next teachers.

Barry Harris was recognized as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1989.

For more information on the Jazz Institute of Chicago or to see their upcoming list of events, visit www.jazzinchicago.org. You can also learn more about Barry Harris at www.barryharris.com.

Published in BCS Spotlight

CHICAGO, December 15, 2016 - National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu approved more than $30 million in grants this week as part of the NEA's first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. 


Included in this announcement is an Art Work grant of $10,000 to Thodos Dance Chicago to support the March 2017 restaging of legendary West Coast choreographer Bella Lewitzky's seminal work Nos Duraturi.  


The grants also helps fund a comprehensive education outreach initiative to teach the Lewitzky technique to Chicago professional and youth dancers.


The Art Works category focuses on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts and the strengthening of communities through the arts. 


"The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as Thodos Dance Chicago, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer."


"We are delighted that the NEA has awarded Thodos Dance Chicago a $10,000 grant to support our newest work to emerge from our American Dance Legacy Project, Bella Lewitzky's Nos Duraturi," said TDC founder and artistic director Melissa Thodos. "We so appreciate the NEA's endorsement of our work, and we look forward to introducing a new generation of audiences to the work of Bella Lewitzky, a true icon of modern dance."



More about the NEA's support of  Nos Duraturi


The NEA Arts Work grant will support Thodos Dance Chicago's restaging and presentation of Bella Lewitzky's Nos Duraturi, premiering Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre as part of Thodos Dance Chicago's 25th Anniversary FULL CIRCLE concert.


Former Lewitzky dancer Walter Kennedy, who was featured in a poignant duet in the 1984 premiere of Nos Duraturi, along with former Lewitzky company member Amy Ernst, will spend three weeks in residence at Thodos Dance Chicago's studio setting the work on the full company, working with the company's lighting and costume designers to honor the dramatic lighting and costumes for the piece and creating a lecture presentation for education outreach.


The grant also will help fund a series of Lewitzky technique master classes to be offered to the Chicago dance community. Walter Kennedy will personally teach master classes with youth dancers at the Chicago High School for the Arts and Whitney Young Magnet High School, with the pre-professional and company trainees at the Joffrey Ballet Academy, an open class for advanced and professional dancers at Visceral Dance Center, and three open classes at Thodos Dance Chicago's own rehearsal studio.


Bella Lewitzky (1916-2004) was a legendary teacher, choreographer, and powerful force for arts advocacy and dance education. Her artistic and political voice remains powerful to those who remember but is unknown to many. Nos Duraturi, choreographed by Lewitzky to Stravinsky's heroic "Symphony of Psalms" is a life affirming, triumph of brotherhood over violence. The work premiered at the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles. 


Thodos Dance Chicago's recreation of Nos Duraturi is the fourth work to emerge from the company's American Dance Legacy Project, which seeks to keep the works of renowned American dance artists alive on stage.


Tickets to its Chicago premiere of Nos Duraturi, one of several exciting works sure to delight as part of Thodos Dance's 25th Anniversary FULL CIRCLE concert on March 11 at the Auditorium, are $29-$68. To purchase, visit AuditoriumTheatre.org, call (312) 341-2300 or buy in-person at Auditorium Theatre's Box Office, 50 E Congress Parkway, Chicago.


Published in Theatre Reviews



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