On April 15, 2011, the Keweenaw Area Jazz Band, under the direction of Nicholas Enz and Pat Valencia, won “Most Outstanding Jazz Ensemble” at the 15th Annual Northern Michigan University Jazz Festival. The part that makes this incredibly cool is that this jazz band is made up of kids from the Copper Country Intermediate School District and Michigan State University Extension Houghton/Keweenaw County 4-H. We can add jazz band member to the list of experiences that a 4-H’er can participate in and learn from. A Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs grant through the Copper Country Community Arts Center, Houghton/Keweenaw 4-H, and in-kind support from community organizations supports the band. The jazz members attend clinics, workshops and concerts by professional jazz musicians, contributing to a well-rounded music education.
This story resonated with me especially because I played in our high school jazz band many years ago in Washington, Iowa. That experience helped me to learn more deeply about jazz by performing, gave me an opportunity to learn from mentors including our band instructor and adult volunteers from our community, and gave me an opportunity to practice leadership. And that’s just what 4-H does for youth. I’m so pleased that our program, through the hard work of volunteers like Nicholas and Pat, can provide these same positive youth development experiences to youth in the Keweenaw area, beyond what is available in normal school programs.