U.S. Embassy’s Christmas Jazz Workshop “Enlightening, Enjoyable”

Over 150 music lovers were treated to an experience that was part performance, part lesson and part jam session at the annual Christmas Jazz workshop hosted by the U.S. Embassy earlier this week.

Saxophonist Eric Darius in an impromptu jam session with a group of young local saxophonists

The many parts combined to make a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening event for those who turned out to the Dining Club in Newton, Christ Church to hear and learn from an excellent group of American jazz musicians. This year marks the fifth in a row that the Embassy has sponsored this event.

The conference room at the Dining Club was full with over 150 music lovers who turned out.

Keyboardist Bobby Lyle led the workshop, supported by bass man Melvin Davis, guitarist Rob Bacon, saxophonist Eric Darius, percussionist Lenny Castro, keyboardist Deron Johnson and drummer and Georgia State University adjunct professor Sonny Emory.

Embassy Deputy Public Affairs Officer Rachael Zaspel pointed out that this was the fifth straight year that the Embassy had sponsored the workshop. She noted that jazz was both a “quintessentially American music and an excellent example of music as a universal language” which enables cultural diplomacy.

The Dining Club’s conference room was packed as the musicians, music teachers and students, and general music enthusiasts eagerly took the opportunity to listen and learn from the musicians who have toured with Earth, Wind and Fire, Anita Baker, Chaka Khan and others.

Keyboardist Bobby Lyle with a group of workshop participants.

The musicians doled out practical tips on techniques and arranging, as well as heartfelt advice on the need for aspiring musicians to develop their own style, with Lyle noting that a musician’s personal style “can carry you anywhere you go in the world.”

Percussionist Lenny Castro giving tips to local drummers.

Fittingly, the workshop was as free-flowing as jazz music itself. Short performances of Christmas classics “Jingle Bells” and “Do You Hear What I Hear” were interspersed with questions and answers from attendees, advice from the musical panel and demonstrations of how to build a groove “from the ground up” and how to build a funk counterpoint.

Even after the workshop’s official end, the musicians stayed behind to talk with attendees, answer technical questions one-on-one and even do a little impromptu jamming with some local musicians who had brought their instruments to the workshop.

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