It was the angels– not saints– that came marching in Wednesday evening.
Members of the local Jazz Angels youth group, their mentors and other professional players held a jazz “parade” down Andy Street, wowing surprised folks on the block.
The parade was part of a kick-off sign-up event for the Summer Season Music Program, a partnered effort between the Jazz Angels and the Andy Street Community Association meant to encourage young people to become involved in music, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds.
“The mission of Jazz Angels has always been to get people together,” Jazz Angels executive director Barry Cogert said. “Playing jazz can help level the playing field– it doesn’t matter where you came from. There are certain famous jazz musicians that came from nothing and some who are entitled. I just think it’s neat to see how other people live, and music is a forum for that.”
An anonymous donor in the city covered the costs of instruments for the kids, while Jazz Angels staff will provide them with free lessons. The soul though, is all from the kids– this week’s parade was aimed to bring some musical cheer to Andy Street while attracting new members to the free summer music program.
“The kids in this area don’t have access to many extracurricular activities,” Cogert said. “A lot of them don’t have a chance to even, what I call, ‘test drive’ an instrument. If they sign up to play an instrument, we’ll get an instrument in their hands and give them some lessons on it.”
The parade concluded at Community Grace Brethren Church, where the musicians continued to play while children and their parents beelined to the sign-up sheets.
Samuel Davis signed up his daughter Zahira, 11, for singing lessons. She said she was excited to get to make music with other kids.
“I signed her up because I like getting my daughter involved in as many programs as possible,” Davis said. “You don’t find programs like this anywhere in this day and age– no experience required. They are offering to teach you how to play instruments and also to sing. This is a blessing.”
The program ends with a community concert Oct. 19, supported by a grant from The Arts Council for Long Beach.
“This summer she really doesn’t have a lot going on,” Bobby Johnson said after he signed up 8-year-old Ciara. “This is something she can do, and she loves singing. This is great– it gives kids something positive to do. Rather than looking at TV all summer. Learning an instrument, working their voice– it’s just good all the way around.”