Nearly 300 Door County students from choir and band programs at Southern Door, Sturgeon Bay, Sevastopol and Gibraltar schools took part in Birch Creek’s “Artists in the Schools” program on Friday, February 15, 2019. Artists in the Schools began in 2002 as a way for Birch Creek and its faculty to give back to the community. Each year, nationally-acclaimed faculty return to Door County and share their talent and experience with local public school music students.
This year, Katie Ernst (Birch Creek Jazz Faculty) played bass and sang vocals with her jazz quartet of saxophonist, Dustin Laurenzi, pianist, Tom Vaitsas, and drummer, Neil Hemphill. All hail from Chicago and are well-known musicians in the world-class Chicago jazz scene. At each Door County school, this talented quartet mixed performance with talk about their journey to becoming professional musicians. Students engaged with the musicians between songs, asking questions about their prospects for a career in music and requesting favorite songs for the quartet to play.
It was a grand tour that began at 9:00 AM with the Sevastopol High School Choir, hosted by music teacher Shannon Sheehan. The jazz quartet then stopped in Fish Creek and brought their swing and Great American Songbook tunes to more than 130 Gibraltar band students from grades 6-12 and their teacher Charlie Eckhardt. Katie Ernst rolled her large bass from the Door Community Auditorium and loaded it into her car for the next leg of the trip – Sturgeon Bay High School. High School Band Director, Heidi Hintz, and Choir Director, Leslie Hill, brought more than 120 students from the Sturgeon Bay High School Concert Choir, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble and the 7th and 8th Grade Choir members to spend nearly 45 minutes listening to jazz songs and stories from the musicians.
The afternoon closed with a visit to Southern Door High School where Director of the Band and Jazz Band, Naomi Files, gathered 30 high school students to hear big band jazz hits such as George and Ira Gershwin’s “Love is Here to Stay” and “I Wished on a Moon,” with lyrics written by Katie Ernst’s favorite poet, Dorothy Parker. The students were treated to a mix of music that included blues and a rumba voted on by the students. From beginning to end, Birch Creek’s Artists in the Schools was a thrill to be part of for all involved – music teachers, students and the professional musicians. All were grateful for this unique interaction between professional music artists and young students who share a passion for music. “Thank you so much for this opportunity,” posted Sevastopol instrumental music teacher, Tanya Hasenjager.
Birch Creek, together with the artists, thanks the Skinner Family Fund for project sponsorship.