Monday, September 15, 2008

Silver Spring Jazz Festival

See a Jazz Festival Slideshow here

For families, jazz fest gets them into the swing of things - Gazette

Fifth annual event draws more than 25,000 to downtown Silver Spring for a day of music

by Jeremy Arias | Staff Writer

Yaniv Yassour stared intently at the stage Saturday afternoon as the announcer prepared to unveil the winners of the 2008 Silver Spring Jazz Festival's High School Youth Cutting Contest.

Young musicians from James Hubert Blake, Albert Einstein high schools and the independent Jazz Academy of Silver Spring all waited expectantly in downtown Silver Spring as their band leaders fidgeted behind the announcer onstage.

"And the winner is … the Jazz Academy!"

Yassour, a Silver Spring resident for the last seven years, broke into a delighted smile and joined the spectators in applauding the victors, among them his 14-year-old son, Itai, a trumpet player who performed a solo earlier in the competition.

Yassour, an Israeli by birth, said jazz has played an important role in his family: he is a saxophonist and his daughter plays the piano. His wife, a former flautist, makes sure they all practice.

"It's a good way to get the family together and spend some quality time going to other venues and seeing other performers," he said. While Yassour said he is no professional, music still has a unifying impact on the family. "It's just a hobby; it's fun to play with the kids."

Families, musical or not, were not hard to find. Whether it was the joy of watching a loved one perform, the music, or the opportunity to get out for one of the area's biggest outdoor events, the fifth-annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival drew more than the usual 25,000 according to spokeswoman Susan Hoffmann.

Families danced and played, stretched out on blankets and lawn chairs and met up with friends to browse the food vendors near the front of the venue, all to the smooth, rhythmic backdrop of one of America's most treasured musical styles.

"It went all the way back to the tents," Hoffmann said of the crowd. At first she was afraid that the event's new location would hamper attendance. "There was a significant increase right before Marcus Johnson went on; people tend to come for the last few acts."

Marcy and Dexter Gaines of College Park brought their children, 7-year-old Maya and 2-year-old Devin, to the event. It is the family's first time at the daylong concert that featured headliner The Mingus Big Band of New York.

"We thought it seemed like a fun event to bring the family to," Dexter said as Devin bounced up and down to the music of Washington, D.C., resident Gail Shipp onstage.

"It's just beautiful weather," Marcy added. "We'll probably come back if we see it again."

Hoffmann mentioned the major draws for families included the typically child-friendly atmosphere along with the big headline events for parents and adults.

"People know that their kids will be safe; it'll be a non-alcohol, non-smoking environment, the lyrics won't be offense and it'll just be a good performance of very talented performers," she said. "It's hard to describe the sound of a 14-piece jazz orchestra playing the work of Charley Mingus … it was just sensational, the crowd went wild, and Marcus Johnson was also probably the best I've ever heard him."

David Schneider and Rhona Campbell of Silver Spring have attended the festival for the last three years, this time with daughters Anastasia and 7-month-old Nora. The jazz tunes were a welcome change to the kid's music they've been listening to for so long, Schneider said.

"Both our kids like music so this is a good opportunity to get out of the house, and we're also trying to teach them what some of the instruments sound like," he said, adding that a future in music was not out of the question for the girls. "Maybe they'll advance to banging pots and pans together soon!"

"We go to almost everything that's available for outdoor entertainment in the area," Campbell added, emphasizing the value of getting out and about with the family.

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