Young Sounds and Mesa Community College Jazz Band Present Joint Concert, March 8th

By: Marisa Arellano

In the first concert of 2017, Young Sounds of Arizona and the Mesa Community College Jazz band will team up to offer a lively evening of jazz at MCC’s Performing Arts Center. This performance will offer our Young Sounds (YS) members a chance to both broaden their performance experience as well as reach new audiences. It is also a great opportunity for YS members to meet the MCC music department faculty as well as music majors within the college.

Young Sounds will open the concert with performances by all 3 of our dedicated ensembles: The 5 O’clock Band, directed by Doug Robinson and the 7 O’clock and Combo Bands, directed by Andrew Gross. Each band will perform 2 – 4 songs before the Mesa Community College Jazz Band takes the stage. Our director, tenor saxophonist Andrew Gross will then join MCC as a guest performer.

“This is a great opportunity for our dedicated students to share the stage with the talented MCC Jazz Band. We are truly looking forward to this collaboration. Our students have been working diligently and are eager to share their talents with the community”, states Andrew, who has been working with the YS students for 3 years and was a member of the group himself throughout high school. “Participating in Young Sounds plays a very important part in our students’ musical and personal development”, explains Andrew. “Apart from helping me to refine my musical ability and grow as a young musician, Young Sounds taught me a great deal about the importance of dedication and discipline”, says Andrew. “Preparing for concerts and performing alongside other jazz ensembles is an important part of that”.

Paul Brewer, director of the MCC Jazz Band is looking forward to the performance as well. “I have always been a huge supporter of Young Sounds. The students in this program are the future of jazz in so many ways. They are the future performers, spectators and supporters of the coming years of jazz. They are the ones that will be steering jazz to new evolutions and innovations. We host YS at least once a year, and I am always dazzled by their improvements and performances”, stated Paul. He continues, “As far as Andrew Gross goes, he is my favorite jazz saxophonist in town. He is a musically creative player whose versatility shines-through. He can play with beautiful sensitivity on ballads, and swingingly hang with with best of them on blazing-fast tempos. He is also a great guy and an awesome music educator. My students and I are excited to feature him with our jazz band here at Mesa Community College”.

The MCC Jazz Band has performed all over the country at various festivals and concerts. Its alumni range from studio musicians and composers to jazz stars, music educators and film scorers who are currently active all over the country. Under Paul Brewer’s direction, the MCC Jazz Band has a new home in the Performing Arts Center and continues to promote jazz at a high level throughout the valley.

What you need to know:

WHEN: Wednesday March 8th, 7 pm

WHERE: MCC Performing Arts Center, 1520 S. Longmore, Mesa AZ 85202

COST: $6.00

Larry Lederman tells how Young Sounds of Arizona started

By Patricia Myers

Larry Lederman remembers how Young Sounds of Arizona came into being as a multi-high-school jazz band of teenage musicians. What a concept it was! Student musicians from schools that were zealous sports rivals would get together regularly to play jazz.

That idea had its roots in 1970, when Lederman was part of his family’s Lederman Music Company, also playing jazz piano at night in coffee houses and restaurants. “My father Ben and his brother Bernie had bought a music store here in the early 1940s after we moved from Virginia because of my father’s lung issues. We sold instruments, classical and jazz records, and we gave music lessons. We also had a big rental program for band instruments with the local schools.”

Lederman met many music teachers in his family’s store, among them Don Bothwell, now retired as a high school and Mesa Community College’s band director and percussion instructor. Bothwell had started an after-school jazz band in the late 1960s at Carl Hayden High School when he was band director. “There also were jazz bands at Camelback, West and South Mountain high schools,” he recalled.

Lederman knew this and began thinking about students from those various schools becoming an all-city big band, so he promoted the idea with band directors. Lederman’s store sponsored the band’s first performance in Tucson at an all-state band festival. “Everyone was impressed,” he said.

The new band’s first concert performance was in the big basement of Lederman’s Phoenix store. Among the audience members was Hal Sunday, president of the Phoenix musicians union. Not long after, the union offered its financial support for the band, which became known in 1971 as The Young Sounds of Arizona, incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. It is the first and oldest program of its kind in the nation, still comprised of students between the ages of 13 and 18 from schools in the metro-Phoenix area. Members are selected by audition and are considered to be the best young talent in the Valley. Young Sounds is a governed by a volunteer board of directors, and sponsored by the Professional Musicians of Arizona, Local 586 AFM. Cost of performances and expenses such as annual college and jazz camp scholarship programs are paid for by the Young Sounds organization, which also sponsors clinics by noted jazz musicians and educators.

Lederman and Bothwell have had a long intertwined musical history of performing in jazz combos, particularly a quartet with Tony Morrell on alto sax and Al Patrick on bass for an ongoing gig at Wing’s Chinese restaurant in Phoenix.

Lederman, 86, was born in New York and started classical piano lessons at age 5. The family moved to Newport News, Va., where his father ran a music store in that segregated state. “We sold what were called ‘race records’ made by Negro musicians. Our store was near the shipyards, and the liquor store was a half-block down the street from us. On payday, the workers would come to town to buy liquor and records for 63 cents each. We always had a loudspeaker playing the newest hits.”

Lederman was 15 when he had his first paid job. “I played ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ with my uncle Bernie on drums; his rim shots were more important than the piano player’s work,” he added, hinting at the type of gig it was. His first jazz interest was Stan Kenton, also Page Cavanaugh’s 1940s hip hit, “The Three Bears,” later Nat King Cole and Les Paul.

The Lederman Music Company eventually consisted of 10 stores, most of them in Phoenix shopping malls, and also in Tucson and Albuquerque. The company had exclusives with Gibson guitars, Yamaha pianos and Lowrey organs. “We also sold records, jazz mostly, but classical too. We had a big counter with records, like a soda fountain bar. One of our biggest customers was Frank Lloyd Wright, who bought a lot of classical records and instruments. He came in from Taliesin West in that big pink car of his.” Lederman said he sold the stores in 1980.

At home, there were always two pianos and all three of his children played piano, “and we did duets; we were serious,” he said. Professional pianist Beth still lives in the Valley, performing extensively, leading combos and recording; Amy, who also played bass, is an artist in Colorado; Scott is an electrician in Flagstaff.

Lederman still hits the courts to play doubles-tennis three times a week, and enjoys chamber music concerts and films. Three years ago he had a quintuple heart-bypass, and he has survived a heart attack, gall bladder issues and cancer. “But I’m still here and I’m still playing tennis -- and playing piano, and that’s better.”

When he moved from his house into an apartment, he gave Beth his prized 7-foot 4-inch Yamaha concert grand. In turn, she gave him an electric piano. “It’s fun to play jazz on,” he said. Finally, when asked to name his favorite jazz pianist, he instantly replied, “Beth is my favorite.”

Young Sounds of Arizona Training and Auditions

With alumni like Sonia Jason, Joey Sellers, Matt Rollings, Lewis Nash, James Kass, Phillip Strange, Jeff Dellisanti, Dick Weller, Rachel Eckroth, Eric Felten, Alex Han and Vince Wedge (just to name a few!), Young Sounds of Arizona is one of the best training programs for young jazz musicians in the country.

Young Sounds commissions a new tune for big band for our annual Meet the Composer concert. Members are honored to work with these exceptional musicians for that concert. At the end of each year, deserving members receive generous scholarships.

Click here for The Auditions Page.

Called “the best young talent in the Valley”, Young Sounds of Arizona consists of 40 young jazz musicians, ages 13 to 18.

Young Sounds of Arizona is an on-going project of American Federation of Musicians Local 586, and led by Music Director Vincent Wedge. The work ethic, attitude, discipline and talented performance of these Young Sounds musicians are surely a powerful example and inspiration for both young and old.

Go to The Auditions Page for details about requirements, and to register for an audition.