At USC Aiken’s Etherredge Center on Friday, Mark Vinci turned on his iPod for a group of teenagers to hear the iconic jazz musician Thelonious Monk.
A few minutes later, Vinci performed with his saxophone – a warm jazz rendering of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” In the past, he has performed with Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett.
He and six other faculty members from the Juilliard School worked and played in a jazz camp throughout the week with about 50 teens ages 13 to 18 from the CSRA and in other states as far away as Texas.
For the past four years, the Juilliard in Aiken organization has hosted a large festival each March, concerts and outreach efforts for schools.
However, this is the first time the Juilliard in Aiken group has hosted a jazz camp, said the vice president Connie Young. The event culminated Friday night with a concert.
“We’re in a real partnership with Juilliard, and we’re aiming to make these camps an opportunity ever year in collaboration with USCA. It’s a wonderful new direction for us,” she said.
The majority of the young musicians were welcomed by the university to stay in campus housing for the week. Andrew Gutauskas, the camp administrator, is a Juilliard alumnus and performed with a jazz group at the URS Center for the Arts a few years ago. He noted that other music camps have been scheduled in other venues this year, including Japan.
“The best part is to watch the progress these campers make,” Gutauskas said. “Some 99 percent of them often have never worked this hard, and it’s nice to see them so inspired.”
Jack Benjamin, the chairman of USCA’s Department of Visual Arts, was delighted that USCA students in the program worked with the Juilliard faculty and served as counselors for the teenagers.
“It’s been really exciting that we have the ability to partner with the Juilliard people,” Benjamin said. “They are finding out that we can provide a more intimate atmosphere here.”
Double-bassist Alex Haggis, 15, of Carrboro, N.C., said the decision to participate in the camp was an easy one.
“It’s been great to be with the people from Juilliard when you want specifically to go there,” he said. “These are people who live that dream.”
Even at 15, Haggis already has a long resume. He plays several instrument and started with the bass only a year ago. Haggis performs with two bands and is a composer, as well. He especially enjoyed the opportunity to spend the week with other young musicians who share his passion.