posted August 26, 2014

Jazz Residency Begins Thursday

A free film screening and live performance on Thursday, Sept. 4, will herald the beginning of a unique ongoing residency in jazz organ at Hope College.

The recent documentary “Killer B3,” about the Hammond Organ, will be shown in the Knickerbocker Theatre at 7:30 p.m., followed by a live performance by acclaimed jazz organist Tony Monaco at Our Brewing Company, both in downtown Holland.  Monaco, who is one of the musicians featured in the documentary, is a new artist-in-residence at the college, teaching individual lessons and engaging with the campus in other ways.  The presentation of the film will also include remarks by its producer/director and writer, Murv Seymour.

The public is invited to both the film and the live performance.  Admission is free.

“The evening will provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn about the Hammond Organ, which is the standard instrument in jazz performance, and then experience it as performed by an incredible and eminent musician,” said Dr. Robert Hodson, professor of music at Hope.  “Tony and his trio are shown in the film playing a live gig at a club—and then right after the film people will be able to experience that at Our Brewing Company just a few doors down.”

The singular combination of film and performance has been designed as a fitting beginning to Monaco’s involvement in the department of music, which Hodson believes is itself one-of-a-kind and enables Hope to provide a new emphasis in jazz organ.

“We brought him to campus this past April as a guest artist, and his visit was such a fantastic experience that we were eager to bring him into our program on a regular basis,” Hodson said.

Monaco will be on-campus four times a year to teach private lessons as well as to participate in clinics and other activities, and then, because he also maintains an active, international touring schedule, he will continue to work with his individual students one-on-one via the Internet.  It’s a system through which Monaco has already been providing private lessons to students around the world.

“What Tony has done with technology is incredible,” Hodson said. “That’s how we can have someone who’s touring all the time and based in Columbus, Ohio, still be on the faculty here.”

When Monaco is teaching while away from campus, he and his students will work together at scheduled times via keyboards that are connected online while also talking together via Skype.  The system displays a digital keyboard on the computer, allowing the notes played by both Monaco and the student to show on screen in addition to being heard.  When the lesson is done, Monaco provides the student with an audio file of the session for review as well as another file that even allows the performances to be transcribed.

Hodson, a member of the Hope faculty since 2002 whose specialties include jazz studies and piano performance, has already tried the system himself and is pleased with the way it works.  “I’ve taken some lessons with him this summer, and it’s amazing,” he said.

Monaco released his first CD, the critically acclaimed “Burnin Grooves,” in 2000, with eight international releases and many tours around the globe following in the years since.  In 2007, he celebrated his 40th year as a musician and appeared on the cover of “Keyboard Magazine.”

His teaching includes private students, classes and clinics.  He has also produced a series of instructional DVDs titled “Playing Jazz Hammond.”

In addition to his activities during the evening on September 4, Monaco’s early-fall time at Hope will include teaching individual lessons in jazz organ, conducting a clinic for Hope jazz students and making a presentation to the department of music.  During his appearance at Our Brewing Company, Monaco will be performing with Hope music faculty members Mike Hyde (guitar) and Mike Van Lente (drums).

As background on the “Killer B3” website notes, the 425-pound Hammond B3 “is like a pipe organ on steroids.  You need the dexterity of an octopus to control its two keyboards, 36 drawbars, 25 foot pedals and its host of buttons and switches—all of which make it come alive.  While there are many models of Hammond Organ, the Hammond B3 is the signature model.  It spit out one of the most unique sounds used in all styles of music, including gospel, jazz, blues, rock, country, reggae and commercial soundtracks.”

The college has recently acquired a vintage Hammond A100 organ, which Hodson said is equivalent to the B3.  The new instrument complements three other major organs currently at the college:  the 1929 Skinner Organ and 1970 Pels and Van Leeuwen Organ in Dimnent Memorial Chapel; and the teaching organ by J.W. Walker and Sons Ltd. of Suffolk, England, in Nykerk Hall of Music (which will be relocated to the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts opening during the 2015-16 school year).  In addition, an organ that will be installed in the main concert hall of the new music center is being custom-built for Hope by Casavant Frères (Casavant Brothers) of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located at 86 E. Eighth St. and Our Brewing Company is located at 76 E. Eighth St., both between College and Columbia avenues.