Jazz campers don’t miss a beat at Surrey church

SOUTH SURREY — Head on down to Crescent Beach Legion most any Sunday afternoon, from September through April, and you’ll experience the very likable public face of White Rock Traditional Jazz Society.

Be it Dixieland or New Orleans or some other style of traditional jazz, the joint is jumping.

But there’s more to this organization than immediately meets the eye – and the ear. In short, the group gives back, in a big way, to the community.

And there’s no better example than its ongoing support of aspiring young musicians.For the better part of two decades, said spokesperson Dave Roper, the jazz society has been sending local music students to summer camps in the United States to better understand the freeform ways of jazz and, ultimately, become more versatile players.

Indeed, the program has proven so successful that in 2013, Roper and his compatriots – and a gaggle of professional musicians and teachers – debuted its own jazz camp right here in Surrey, free of charge to all students.It was a hit.

The response to the week-long affair, held at Surrey’s Johnston Heights Secondary School last summer and utilizing many of the school’s musical instruments, was spectacular – spectacular enough that a 2014 followup seemed a certainty.

And it was, right up to May of this year, when the B.C.-wide teachers’ strike cast serious doubt over their plans.

If the strike slogged on through the summer, students and instructors alike could kiss off both their venue and many of the instruments they’d relied upon in 2013.

Kids crossing picket lines? No way.

For months, Roper, society president Don Phillimore and the rest of the gang agonized over the next step.

"By the end of July, it was evident we’d have to cancel," Roper said.

And that’s when a Surrey church stepped in to save the day.

For a donation, Guildford’s Legacy: A Church of the Nazarene would host the camp for a full week inside its rather expansive, two-level place of worship.

The jazz group jumped at the chance, knowing it would need to fund not only the church donation but also the rental of a number of instruments along the way.

Music store Long McQuade helped out, as did private money and the ongoing 50/50 draws at the Crescent Beach Legion shows.

And so, on Monday, Aug. 11, White Rock Traditional Jazz Society summer camp came alive once again.

Named "Jazz from the Start," it featured no less than 42 studentsand a variety of seasoned musicians/instructors, including Keith Honeywell and Gary Raddysh.

At the camp’s final night five days later, students and instructors alike joined forces for a six-band jazz extravaganza that showcased not only newfound skills, but the obvious camaraderie that had grown between participants.

Each solo was met with applause, each set ended with full-on ovations. It was a joyous evening.

The fruits of dedication? Absolutely.

But for the very definition of dedication, one need look no further than camp instructors, Jennifer Hodge and Bonnie Northgraves, both noted pro musicians.Seems both were gigging until midnite in Seattle the night before camp began.

They drove back to Surrey immediately after the show, pitched tents on the church lawn at 3 a.m. and hoped to grab a little shuteye before the doors officially opened.

Alas, the church’s automatic sprinkler system had other ideas, activating a few minutes later and soaking everything – and everyone – in the vicinity.

Yet at 9 a.m.,Hodge and Northgraves, now somewhat drier yet still a bit groggy, were ready to go, ready to help eager kids learn jazz.

Dedication? Yep, that’s dedication.

goble@shaw.ca

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