Top Musicians Inspire MPHS Jazz Ensemble 

By Kristin Boza  

The Morgan Park High School Jazz Program has been earning accolades since it restarted in 2006, and its student musicians have gained inspiration from jazz residencies with some of the most accomplished jazz musicians. 

Most recently, internationally acclaimed musician, composer, and bandleader Wynton Marsalis came to MPHS to provide instruction and inspiration to the jazz ensemble.  

“Our clinic with Wynton Marsalis was life-changing. After just a few minutes with Wynton, our students made adjustment in their embouchure, posture, and overall attitude toward jazz music,” said Shemeka Nash, Fine Arts Department Chair at MPHS. “Wynton has a powerful jazz pedagogy; in just a few words, he is able to help students understand expression and style. He was also able to answer all of the student questions and provide a great deal of meaning. Everyone in the room, adults and students alike, were mesmerized by his ability to respond with such depth to their questions. 

Past jazz residencies included artists such as Jon Faddis, Sandip Burman, Wycliffe Gordon, Mwata Bowden, Ernie Adams, Ruben Alvarez and Rob Denty. These clinics were available thanks to a partnership with the Jazz Institute of Chicago, which also hosts jam sessions, provides professional development, and offers students the opportunity to participate in their jazz student council.  

The MPHS jazz combo was selected to perform at the 2018 Midwest Clinic Inaugural Celebrating Chicago Jazz Education Festival. The jazz ensemble has a history of performing at the Chicago Jazz Festival on the Young Lions Jazz Stage, and in 2014 they were awarded the Chicago Composers Award, which included a commissioned work written specifically for the MPHS jazz ensemble.  

“We have been lucky to have past and present school administrators supportive of the program,” Nash said. “They have ensured that the jazz program had students enrolled in jazz classes as appropriate and have supported our afterschool program in every way.” 

Enjoy the MPHS jazz ensemble in person at St. Xavier University’s Jazz Festival on Mar. 21. 

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