Bits 'n Pieces: Month of Jazz settles into Niche

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian neighborhood news coordinator

Published:

Updated: February 11, 2013, 12:24 PM

 

Students from Vancouver School of Arts and Academics can get a taste of what it's like to be professional musicians during Niche Restaurant's Month of Jazz benefit.

Student jazz combos from the Vancouver Public Schools magnet school are showcasing their skills throughout the month in special performances followed by improvisational jam sessions. Concerts are scheduled for Feb. 13, 20 and 28. At each of those shows, a student combo, of varying ages and skill levels, will perform from 7 to 7:30 p.m., followed by an open jam until 9 p.m.

During the jam, musicians with improvisational talent are invited to sit in with the students for a song or two.

A $5 cover charge, which will go to Vancouver School of Arts and Academics' jazz band program, is suggested, but not required. Visitors are asked to dress nicely. That means no jeans or T-shirts.

A portion of sales from certain entrees and drinks will also benefit the program, which educates about 70 students from grades six to 12.

Some of the more motivated band students at VSAA meet after school three days a week to play in jazz combos, small groups that focus on improvisation rather than a traditional emphasis on reading music.

The combos, the same ones performing this month at Niche, are student-led, but will sometimes be guided by VSAA Band Director Michael Bryan or the occasional visiting guest artist.

Niche's Month of Jazz benefit started last year after Bryan got to know the wine and arts bar's owner, Leah Jackson, during dinner visits there with his wife. Jackson's sons Stuart, a senior, and Alec, in eighth grade, are VSAA students and each play bass in the extracurricular jazz combo program.

In February 2012, the Niche concerts brought in $1,500 for the school. The money raised during the Month of Jazz is used to pay for guest artists and help with travel costs to festivals and performances around the Northwest.

Bryan said Niche Restaurant, 1013 Main St., provides the young musicians an excellent place to try out their abilities in public, just like a working adult artist.

"Having an event like this enables our jazz combo students to perform in a nice public setting, gaining experience like a professional musician would," he said.

Contact Niche at 360-980-8352 or visit www.nichewinebar.com. Learn more about VSAA's jazz program by clicking here.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.