Jazz Affair sparks music passion

NANAIMO - Annual fundraising event helps central and northern Island students attend summer jazz camps.

Cameron Wong

Cameron Wong

Connecting with other jazz musicians pushes your creativity, said Cameron Wong.

Wong, 17, has participated in Jazz Affair, a fundraiser for The Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society, for the past five years. He said hearing the guest artists and learning from them is inspirational.

It was a few years ago that Christine Jensen performed at the event. That moment made Wong fall in love with the musical abilities of the saxophone.

Wong said the way Jensen played the saxophone made him take up the instrument. He now plays both the alto and soprano saxophone.

“It was intense and soft at the same time,” said Wong about Jensen’s playing. “It was a real pleasure to hear her play.”

Playing during Jazz Affair is also special for Wong.

“It’s the connection between the other musicians. If you play a note or a lick and it resonates with the group the group will respond to it,” said Wong. “It’s like a conversation but completely creative and in the moment.”

The event has had a wide variety of guest artists over the years and the experience and knowledge they share is invaluable, said Wong.

Mentoring youth is an important part of why this year’s guest artist Sara Gazarek, a jazz artist from Los Angeles is performing at the event.

“I understand how important it is to engage young people in the beauty of the art form,” said Gazarek. “It comes down to us knowing we wouldn’t be here unless someone ignited the flame in us.”

Gazarek said she loves the mentorship Jazz Affair provides and that it helps to inform young people that they have a place in this art form.

Gazarek was born in Seattle. When she was in high school she signed up for the theatre program. She said most of the passion for jazz was ignited by Scott Brown the instructor. He took students to jazz festivals and exposed them to jazz greats.

Unlike theatre singing the festival allowed her to present herself, not a character. The ability to be herself onstage made her fall in love with singing.

Gazarek and her band sing classic and their own original songs. For classic jazz hits putting their own voice to it is a natural process, she said.

“For us it’s just about approaching every song like it is our own song,” said Gazarek.

Jazz Affair supports young musicians with scholarships to attend summer jazz camps in central and northern Vancouver Island.

Carmella Luvisotto, band director at Wellington Secondary School, said  scholarships are open to students throughout the central Island not just Nanaimo.

Jazz Affair is Friday (May 31) at Beban Park.

Tickets are $25 and are available at Fascinating Rhythm, Seadrift Fish Market, Arbutus Music and Guava in Woodgrove Centre, by calling 250-668-6794 or e-mailing tickets@friendsofnanaimojazz.com.

For more information about the event please go to www.friendsofnanaimojazz.com/JazzSociety.htm.