LAS VEGAS ( KLAS ) – Calling it a “non-profit music education group” doesn’t quite capture what they’re all about, even though that’s technically what it is.
Maybe “spreading joy through music” would be a better description of JOI: the Jazz Outreach Initiative.
When three good friends put their musical heads together five years ago, they worked hard to get where they are today.
That includes free educational concerts, like the recent “Jazz for Young People” at the College of Southern Nevada’s North Las Vegas campus, where even grown-ups learned a thing or two about legendary trumpeter Miles Davis.
JOI co-founder Gary Cordell was the MC, telling the crowd, “The last thing in the world his family wanted was for Miles to become a jazz musician.”
The Jazz Outreach Initiative’s other co-founder is Las Vegan Kenny Rampton, who now travels the world playing trumpet with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Kenny and Gary bonded the day they met in the UNLV Marching Band after Kenny was in both the McDonald’s All-American Marching and Jazz bands when he was a student at Bonanza High School.
As both have grown in their careers, they wanted to honor the people who helped them along the way.
Gary Cordell: “We feel the pull to give back, for so many doors and opportunities that were opened for us.”
Kenny Rampton: “I came through Vegas several years ago with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. We played at The Smith Center, and I did a Q-and-A. We had, like, 250 kids show up. And I was so moved. I was thinking the rest of the day that I wanted to do something for my hometown.”
Among JOI’s many programs, there’s “Buzzing In Brass,” showing elementary school students that they already know music – even if they might think their brains are “frozen” in that area.
JOI Executive Director Donny Thompson is proud of the group’s “Jazz Routes” program:
“There are a lot of organizations that provide music instruments to kids who would never have access to them. But we went a step farther and brought in members of the community to also pay for a year’s worth of free private lessons.”
JOI recently partnered with “Music and Arts” (the nation’s largest music store retailer).
And the lessons are paying off. Professional saxophonist Eddie Rich can be seen in the video connected to this story with budding saxophonist, Illeanna, playing “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”
Truly spreading “JOI” in our community.