Boulder County Elementary Students Get Schooled in Jazz

January 12, 2019 GMT

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For more information on the Colorado Jazz Group, check it out on Facebook: @coloradojazzgroup or visit jazzon2ndave.com .

As the driving force behind the annual Niwot Jazz on 2nd Ave festival, it’s no secret the Colorado Jazz Group has a passion for the distinctly American style of music. But the nonprofit is working to make sure its members and supporters aren’t the only ones jazzed about the genre.

For the past 21 years, the Colorado Jazz Group has assembled bands of experienced jazz musicians to “tour” elementary schools throughout the state, introducing fourth- and fifth-graders to the “universal language of jazz,” as the band’s leader Tony Gulizia, better known as Tony G, said.

“It’s America’s music and it’s very important for me to see kids at this age learn a little more about this gift to the music world,” Gulizia said.

“We’ve seen over 20,000 fourth- and fifth-graders over the past 21 years,” he said, adding some of those students are now attending distinguished music colleges and they say, ”‘Hey Mr. G you kind of turned me on to jazz.’”

Alec Moruro, one of Gulizia’s first students, now studies jazz at Columbia University. He sat in last week with Gulizia’s band in Vail.

The Colorado Jazz Group Goes to School Tour made stops Friday at University Hill Elementary in Boulder, Ryan Elementary in Lafayette, Niwot Elementary in Niwot, and Central Elementary in Longmont to teach 30-minute lessons on the history and mechanics of jazz. It was the second such round of touring, after the tour made similar stops in September.

Along with Gulizia, the touring quintet includes Andy Hall, a music professor at the University of Nebraska, on bass; Mike Marlier, a professor at the University of Denver, on drums; Michael “Gooch” Gurciullo, a big band leader in Las Vegas and the lead trumpet player for the Wayne Newton Orchestra, on trumpet; and Gary Regina, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and touring musician, on saxophone and flute. Bridget Law, a violinist and fiddle player who played with Elephant Revival, also joined the band as a special guest.

During the 30-minute lesson, students were treated to a rendition of Miles Davis’ “Walkin,’” as well as Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues.”

Musicians also showed students how each instrument worked, why its particular sound meshed with the other instruments and the basics of improvisation.

“This is as rewarding as any big concert or big hot shot performance,” said Marlier, who has played with the likes of Maynard Ferguson and Benny Goodman. “To sit here and watch these little lights get turned on is just the best. I remember when Dave Brubeck came to my elementary school with Joe Morello as his drummer. Joe Morello was right in front of me and when they finished their thing he gave me his drumsticks. It was all over, I knew what I was going to do.”

At least one jazz light got switched on Friday at Niwot Elementary.

“I wasn’t into jazz before,” said fifth-grader Noah Howard, “but I am now. I liked the piano.”

John Spina: 303-473-1389, jspina@times-call.com or twitter.com/jsspina24