Jazzing Up the Holidays for the Kids
By Dianne Anderson
It can take decades to develop a keen ear and music appreciation for jazzy genres, but not for the young aficionados of New Hope Presbyterian Church.
They’re chiming in, putting a new spin on timeless choral tunes that may not be coming from their generation, but they got the beat.
Reggie Goodjoin, director of music and arts at the church, has been working with the violinists for the better part of the year to spark their creativity and keep their attention through COVID, knowing that the show must go on.
Their annual fundraiser will keep kids in instruments and a positive attitude.
“Like everything else, when you’re put in this kind of situation, getting creative is not too hard. We’ve come up with a type of setup now where Zoom is a great help. In recording, we’re doing some short excerpts. The kids are listening and taking rhythm.”
This year will feature some of last year’s favorites with a reprise of playbacks back by popular demand. Scholarships raised will cover keeping the students in instruments, ongoing instruction, and providing maintenance of their instruments.
The event not only allows students an outlet, but also potential scholarship opportunities down the line should they decide to pursue the field.
Goodjoin, a bassist and a Grammy-award winner, engages a variety of approaches to the students excited about the early holiday vibe. Through the summer, they’re searching out their favorite Christmas tunes online by popular artists who they know, and put their own personalized interpretation on each piece.
It’s similar to how his own jazz appreciation was sparked as a young student at an HBCU in South Carolina where he participated in a clinic put on by the one and only Dizzy Gillespie.
As a music major, Goodjoin attended their Black college jazz network event which was frequently hosted by many well-noted “straight-ahead” jazz musicians of the day that would stop by on tours. Gillespie came through, and later that evening, Goodjoin was jamming the workshop.
It was the thrill of a lifetime.
“The South Carolina jazz band played, we had some of his tunes in the rhythm section and a few horn players. We did the show with him, that for me is one of the highlights in college, just getting that opportunity.”
Today, he gives back to the local kids through the jazz clinics where they learn to develop their musical styles, and recognize and appreciate the uniqueness of the beat.
Over the years, Through their Music Enrichment Program, under-served students receive scholarships for string lessons. The program has hosted heavy hitters in the industry, including acclaimed vocalists, Alva Copeland and Kathryn Bailey Cunningham. Rhythm guitarist Yohei Nakamura, the lead guitarist with Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder. Donald Hayes who worked with Beyonce, among many popular others.
Christmas band practice has been in the works for months, even if they weren’t all in the same room. Like all other venues, everything is virtual.
No matter, he said the little virtuosos are all jazzed up.
“They know the [traditional] Christmas songs as they are, but hearing them played in various ways, that they’ve never heard it before usually sparks their attention,” he said. “When we’re working with the kids, that’s one of the happiest times of the year.”
Lately, church members are also excited about their recent relocation. Currently, they are in the process of rehabilitating a campus and making a new home out of an old church.
Christopher Mears said through a joint venture with St. Paul’s in Anaheim, they are redeveloping the six acres at the older church at Magnolia and Orange. Mears is overseeing that process, which involves renewing the administrative building, and placing permanent offices.
The property will also offer a better home for other congregations, including a Kenyan Presbyterian current tenant on-site, and a Korean church.
Mears said that multi-congregational campuses are a newer approach, one that has gained favor with the Presbyterian church. Next up comes remodeling and design of the sanctuary that is set to start in the spring.
He said that New Hope Presbyterian has 120 members, and their virtual service is getting about 500 views, which is doing fine these days.
But across the country, the economics of the pandemic has impacted almost everything. It’s been a challenging time for churches, especially older churches that have decreased in size. Attendance is trending down, and sustaining churches is taking another level of faith and action.
“We’re involved in doing something that if we’re successful, and [may continue] as a model within the Presbyterian church for other congregations that find themselves challenged economically to think about developing multi-congregational campuses like this,” said Mears, a civil Rights Attorney and chair of the church’s social justice ministry,
In the meantime, he said their church continues to serve and praise.
“One evening a week people come to the church and stay outside in fellowship with masks, walk the campus and interact with each other. We have virtual services put together by Pastor Chinetta and others have been very successful,” he said.
For more information on how to donate to the fundraiser, contact info@MyNewHopePres.org or call 714-288-9986