“One of the things I love most is the diversity within each group ... The range of life experience makes for a balanced group of fascinating people, all of whom have something to offer,"Liz Kinnon
“It takes courage to get away from the sheet music,” said Liz Kinnon, who directs the adult jazz combos at the Colburn School of Performing Arts. “More than any other of music, the ear must be developed when playing jazz because of the improvisation factor. That’s what makes it fresh, exciting, and fun.”
Improvisatorial skills and confidence are what Ms. Kinnon aims to build with the Colburn Adult Jazz Combos, made up of ambitious adult students who share a love of jazz and want to develop musically, both individually and with a group.
Musicians must be proficient at their instrument and have some jazz experience when they join the combo. Until 2011, adult jazz musicians played alongside teens in the program directed by Lee Secard of the community school. Recognizing the unique needs of adult students, Mr. Secard asked Ms. Kinnon if she would start a group exclusively for them. Soon, one small group quickly expanded to two combos.
“One of the things I love most is the diversity within each group. Our members range in age from their 20s to their 80s. We have lawyers, artists, doctors, scientists, business people—you name it. The range of life experience makes for a balanced group of fascinating people, all of whom have something to offer,” she said.
Each musician puts a great deal of time and effort into the combos, and Ms. Kinnon said she can see—and hear—each participant’s progress over the 13-week semester and, in most cases, multiple semesters. The groups explore various styles of jazz together, learning some jazz theory and approaches to improvisation along the way.
“My goal is to give everyone an opportunity to develop their ears, learn standard jazz repertoire, and become better improvisers while working together toward a common goal,” Ms. Kinnon said. “It is rewarding for me to see each musician develop throughout the semester. Seeing each musician pursue his or her passion is near and dear to my heart.”