They had just three weeks to rehearse, but the Chicken Bone Beach Youth Jazz Ensemble band has made the most of its time, preparing seven pieces for the performance as the opening act at the Chicken Bone Beach Jazz concert at 7 p.m. today in Kennedy Plaza.
Retired Atlantic City music teacher Joseph Brown took the 28 students through rehearsal Wednesday, pushing them to increase the tempo on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” which gives several students a chance to shine in solos.
Now in its second year, the summer jazz camp is a week shorter than last year, but benefited from having some student musicians return and new talented students join.
“It’s a little bit bigger this year, and we have more instrument types, including a flute, violin, and more trombones,” Brown said.
Teachers Tony Day, Danielle Mendez, Larry Lantz and Hassan Abdur Raheem worked with the students and more experienced students were paired with novices. Atlantic City music teacher James Daly rewrote the musical arrangements to the level of the students.
Jazz pianist Orrin Evans, the featured artist at tonight’s concert, also talked to the students as part of their lessons on jazz history.
“They watched him on YouTube, then he explained to them what he was doing,” Brown said.
Brown said because the students were more experienced, he got to spend more time on actual jazz composition this year. But the camp also promoted life skills, emphasizing respect for others in all situations.
“We want them to be better musicians, and better people,” Brown said, turning to the students. “Respectfulness will spill over into how you play, your heart and your spirit. It’s what we wanted the camp to be about — being good citizens.”
The Chicken Bone Beach Historical Foundation organizes the camp, which this year is sponsored by Richard Stockton College, a Community Development Block Grant, Tropicana Casino and Resort, Atlantic City Electric Co., Borgata Hearts & Soul Foundation and donations from parents and friends.
Foundation President Henrietta Shelton said she would like to start a Saturday program during the school year.
“I’m so pleased with it,” she said. “I give them an hour to play at the concert, and Joe said he can fill it.”
Taria Mitchell, 17, of Egg Harbor Township, returned for her second year because Brown told the aspiring music teacher she could help teach. A saxophonist, she plays in the Egg Harbor Township High School jazz band.
Forrest Gilmore, 14, of Atlantic City, a guitarist, returned because he enjoyed camp last year.
“I learned a lot coming every day,” he said. “I can really see that I got better.”
Pianist Chelsea Tyner, 13, of Egg Harbor Township, has played for seven years and is one of the more advanced members. Chelsea said she asked for lessons after seeing a girl playing piano in a TV commercial. She plans to be a scientist, but also loves piano.
As they packed up for the day, Raheem praised the musicians’ efforts during the camp.
“We accomplished a lot here this year because of you, and your discipline,” Raheem said.
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