By Mecca Abdul-Aziz
This fall, Cincinnati jazz icons Kathy Wade and Rick VanMatre will be showcasing Cincinnati’s jazz culture to audiences in Nancy, France. They will be joined by University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music students Myles Twitty and Jenna Reel.
The trip is being organized by the Cincinnati-Nancy Sister City Association, the nonprofit that manages the municipal relationship between Cincinnati and Nancy, France. The Association launched their Jazz Committee last year to commemorate the 100th year that jazz was first brought to France by the African American infantry unit, more commonly known as the Harlem Hellfighters during World War I.
Cincinnati’s Jazz Ambassadors will depart for France on October 6. They will collaborate with four French jazz ambassadors to form a Sister City group for the week of performances. Their itinerary includes conducting master classes and music clinics with French students, and a performance during the Apero Jazz series of the 46th Nancy Jazz Pulsations Festival. Nancy Jazz Pulsations is one of the premier music festivals in Europe. Cincinnati jazz ambassadors will also participate on a luncheon panel at Nancy City Hall to talk about the history of jazz in Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati-Nancy Sister City organizations create initiatives and programs that strengthen the relationships between the two cities through culture, community and economic development initiatives. This year’s sponsors include Nancy Jazz Pulsations, LAG Productions, Jazz Alive, think BIG strategies and Music Academy International.
The 2019 Cincinnati Nancy jazz ambassadors are:
Kathy Wade is a twice Emmy-nominated, award-winning educator, musician, international jazz singer, who has performed more than 40 years all over the world, including the US, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. She is the creator and executive producer of the national award-winning and four-time Emmy-nominated performing arts literacy program, Books Alive! For Kids.
Rick VanMatre is adjunct professor emeritus of jazz studies and saxophone. He has presented solo recitals and jazz club performances in the US, Europe, Israel, Brazil, and Asia. In addition to recording his compositions with his own quintet, formerly as CCM’s director of jazz studies, he was responsible for expanding the Bachelor of Music in Jazz, creating the Master of Music in Jazz Studies and establishing the Jazz Recording Studio.
Myles Twitty is a sophomore enrolled at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. He has played trumpet in several music venues in the Cincinnati area. He also performed in Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club in New York with the award-winning Jazz House Big Band. He has been nominated for and won the award for best lead trumpet in jazz at Lincoln Center’s Cincinnati level of their 2016 Essentially Ellington competition as well as recently being awarded the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award.
Jenna Reel is a pianist, producer and singer-songwriter, originally from Atlanta, Georgia. She studies commercial music production and jazz studies at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. She is also the winner of the 2016 Georgia Young Composers Competition and has self-released her original music on Spotify, Apple Music and Soundcloud. In addition, she has sat in as a studio musician, co-producer and co-writer on multiple recordings.