Young Sounds of Arizona with Jerry Bergonzi May 8th at Kerr

Jerry Beronzi Saxophone Masterclass in Phoenix May 7

Remembering Patricia Myers, A Beloved Friend to Young Sounds

By Marisa Arellano

 

To most in the Arizona jazz scene, Patricia Myers was a supporter, fan and lover of jazz.  To Young Sounds, she was family.  Myers devoted her life to promoting and nurturing the Phoenix jazz community as both a journalist and a producer of events.

She began a regular jazz column in 1970, published then in the Scottsdale Daily Progress, and in 1977 co-founded the non-profit organization Jazz in Arizona.  Myers’ column continued through to 2017, at MusicSceneAZ.com, which featured her monthly jazz updates: her Riffs column, Events Calendar, and Jazz Venues listing. The website was conceived and is sponsored by the 104-year-old Professional Musicians Union, Local 586. It compiled all genres of music events throughout the state, with a special focus on local live jazz and Young Sounds of Arizona.

“Patricia was such a unique lady and she found a way to combine two of her greatest passions in life- music and writing,” says Jerry Donato, President of the Musician’s Union, whose friendship with Patricia began back in the 1980’s. She had an extensive body of work that spanned several decades and she never failed to intrigue her audiences. 

Patricia’s love for jazz was woven throughout her life. “I started listening to jazz as a teenager because of my mom’s extensive record collection, and over the years I heard a lot of great live music with her,” says her daughter, Suzanne McElfresh. “She wrote her column and the listings every month so people would know where they could hear music in Phoenix and around the state. She wanted to get the word out about all the live shows, and it was important to her that the musicians were appreciated.

Over the years, Patricia developed friendships with local musicians and was well respected in the community as a writer and a supporter of live music.  “Aside from supporting local music, Patricia truly cared about the artists. Her empathy for the elder artists was moving.  She never forgot about them, even when they could no longer perform or were no longer in the public eye,” says Donato.

And while it was evident that she cared deeply for the professional performers in our community, she had a special place in her heart for the budding musicians of Young Sounds. She consistently promoted Young Sounds concerts, attended performances, wrote articles about our kids and spread the word about our scholarship opportunities.  In 2016, she wrote, Young Sounds’ musicianship is amazing for their age-group, and they are always a pleasure to hear. It was as if she already knew how bright the future is going to be for our kids.

“She loved jazz and really cared about music education for young players,” McElfresh says. She was excited to be working with the Musicians Union to get the word out about Young Sounds and all the live music in Arizona.”

Young Sounds Director Andrew Gross explains, “while we all know that Patricia was extremely passionate about live music and especially about jazz, we are both honored and humbled by her wishes to have donations made in her honor to our program.  This means a great deal to our staff and to our kids and we are truly grateful.”

Patricia loved the art of jazz and the artists, young and old alike, and for that we are grateful. And although her passing has left a hole in the heart of Young Sounds, her spirit continues to remain with us all.

Please join us in a Celebration of the Life of Patricia Myers – jazz journalist, organizer, producer, and bonne vivante – on Saturday April 1, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale.  Food and drinks will be served. RSVP via email to RSVP@ASUKERR.com or at 480-596-2660.

In lieu of flowers, donations are being accepted to the Patricia Myers Young Sounds of Arizona Scholarship Fund at www.youngsounds.org/donate and at the event.

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 is led by Music Director Andrew Gross. The work ethic, attitude, discipline, talent and performance level of these Young Sounds musicians is quite impressive and they serve as powerful examples for the community and music lovers, both young and old.

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