ENTERTAINMENT - May 13, 2024

From the Big Apple to Bahrain: JAZZ HOUSE KiDS Is Bridging Cultures Through Music


Fusing the vibrant sounds of New York’s jazz scene with the cultural tapestry of Bahrain, JAZZ HOUSE KiDS collaborated with the BNP Paribas Bahrain Jazz Fest to bring the best of two worlds together with Yalla Jazz! project at the 7th edition of the festival which was organised by Clockwork Bahrain.

The diverse ensemble was led by Ted Chubb, acclaimed trumpeter / Jazz House Kids’ Vice President of Jazz Education and also featured Bahraini musician Ahmed AlQasim along with rising stars from the New York jazz scene, Kelly Green, Birsa Chatterjee, and Darrell Smith. Pushing the boundaries of jazz and creating a cross-cultural musical experience, they had the crowd grooving at the Royal Golf Club on 26th April.

The Yalla Jazz! project was specifically established as part of the festival and was supported by the US Embassy in Bahrain.

During their visit to the island, JAZZ HOUSE KiDS also hosted a student outreach program, engaging with young musicians in Bahrain.

Ted Chubb, Director of Cultural Programming at JAZZ HOUSE KiDS spoke to us about the organisation’s work and the group’s experience in Bahrain.

Tell us a little about JAZZ HOUSE KiDS. What’s your story?

Now in its third decade, JAZZ HOUSE KiDS transforms lives using the power and legacy of jazz through world-class education and performances that create avenues of access, learning, career development and community building. The organization and students have received over 150 awards and honours for excellence in jazz and jazz education. Every day of the week through a series of in-school programs in New Jersey and out-of-school programs in Montclair and New York City, JAZZ HOUSE helps young people gain an artistic edge, fostering community leaders and global citizens who help us build thriving communities. JAZZ HOUSE produces 150+ free public concerts per year to audiences close to 150,000, including the organization’s far-reaching cultural signature program, the award-winning MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL, the largest free jazz festival in the NYC area, attracting 25,000+ attendees to downtown Montclair each year.

What have been some of your biggest collaborations?

We love to collaborate with partner organizations so there is quite a long list we are proud of.  A couple of highlights are the following; most recently we worked with Jazz at Lincoln Center showcasing an alumni band backing up the winners of the International Sarah Vaughn Vocal Competition in Rose Hall; The US Embassy of Peru – two tours of Peru with a mixed ensemble of students, alumni, and faculty playing for communities who may have not heard jazz before. 

We have a long-standing partnership with Tomorrow’s Warriors in London that sends 5-7 students to our summer workshop each year. We accompanied the NJ Ballet in a world premiere of an arrangement of 17 Wayne Shorter pieces synthesized into one piece performed live to dance by the Jazz House Big Band. This past February we produced a concert featuring our Artistic Director and 9x Grammy Winning bassist, Christian McBride and Sting which also featured our Vocal Academy and 5 student musicians.

Tell us about your school outreach program in Bahrain. Which schools did you collaborate with and what was the experience like?

On this tour, we worked with the Bahrain Down Syndrome Care Centre and the American School of Bahrain.  Both were extremely rewarding. At the Down Syndrome Care Center, we performed fun and lively music for about 40 students, teachers, and aids of various ages. 

The students stepped out of their chairs immediately and danced, clapping along, and miming the instruments. Their pure joy for the music was very uplifting. At the American School, we worked with their excellent band program on improvisation techniques. We also performed for all of the music students and were able to have their band directors sit in on a blues with us, as well as four talented female musicians!

What creates Jazz’s appeal for the younger generation?

I think that young people are drawn to Jazz because it is an empowering experience to stand up and take an improvised solo. This allows them a chance to express themselves in a way that many times might not be possible in other areas of their life. I think that young people are also drawn to the inclusive nature of the music in that all cultures are welcome to bring their musical traditions to the music as well as the popular music they are listening to.

What was your highlight at this year’s BNP Paribas Bahrain Jazz Fest and with the Yalla Jazz! project?

The highlight of the tour was performing at the festival with a band comprised of some of my most trusted faculty members as well as two fantastic local musicians. 

Both bassist Ahmed AQ, who helped to craft the music we would be performing, and our guest Oud player, Jassim Jawad brought some authentic Bahraini feel and style to our set that made it a really unique and rewarding experience. I am very much looking forward to collaborating with them both in the near future.

How was your experience visiting Bahrain?

This is my second time touring in Bahrain and I love it. The people of Bahrain are so warm, friendly, and inviting. All of us felt extremely welcome. I have developed some true friendships here in Bahrain that I really hold dear. The entire experience was enriching and inspiring.

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