Alumni Concert Helps Raise Money for South Africa Jazz Trip
by The Milton Measure on Friday, November 2nd, 2012
On Sunday, October 28, Milton Academy’s Jazz Department hosted a fundraising concert for its March 2013 South Africa tour. Four Milton graduates, who all went to South Africa twice during their time at Milton, played alongside Bob Sinicrope, the head of Milton’s jazz department. Donations were optional; however, many students, parents, and alumni felt compelled to help fund the transformative experience that the biannual South Africa trip offers to students.
The alumni played an incredible set, as they reminisced about their experiences in South Africa. The alumni included Samara Oster (’09), now a senior at Harvard, who captivated the audience with her incredible voice and breathtaking range. On the piano, Ben Stepner (’06) and Jason Yeager (’05), both graduates from the New England Conservatory of Music, revisited a lighthearted duet they first played at Milton, combining two Bobby Timmons tunes, “Dis Here” and “Dat Dere.” Kevin Moy (’05), now an intern in the Biology department, revealed his talent on the bass; He and Jason played a beautiful duet that they once enjoyed at Milton. Mr. Sinicrope also joined the alumni for a few songs. Happy to have his former students back on campus, Mr. Sinicrope exclaimed at the beginning of the concert, “This is like a family reunion!”
March will mark the jazz group’s ninth South Africa tour. Over sixteen days, the group plays about twelve concerts in both formal and informal settings all around the country. Each year, the group visits many schools in townships where they play for and with South African students, creating bonds with people from disparate backgrounds.
A particularly exciting performance venue is the V&A waterfront in Cape Town, which Mr. Sinicrope says is like playing outside at the Quincy market. Brian Cho (I), who went on the last South Africa tour, remembers the waterfront concert as one of the best of the tour. “The energy from both the audience and the musicians was tangible; we couldn’t help but emulate that excitement in our playing.”
The four-hour jazz festival held by the Amy Biehl Foundation is one of the most moving performances of the tour. The Foundation is an organization honoring an American anti-apartheid activist, Amy Biehl, who was killed fighting for social justice in South Africa. According to Mr. Sinicrope, “if we aren’t there, [the festival] doesn’t happen”– an honor to say the least.
Not only does the jazz group share their music with South Africa, but they also bring instruments and other gifts to donate to each venue where they perform. Each student who attends the tour brings two suitcases, one packed with his or her own belongings, and another filled with a variety of items to donate. The group has brought about $100,000 worth of donated material on its nine tours.
Mr. Sinicrope said the three objectives of the trip are to give the gift of music, to become culturally aware, and to have fun. Besides performing, Menaka Sachdev (I) especially enjoyed the bus rides as “great bonding time.” She remembers that on the 2011 trip, everyone would sing along to James McHugh (’12) and Nick Deveau (’12) jamming in the back of the bus.
With over twelve concerts, the tour also offers students an incredible opportunity to improve as musicians. As Mr. Sinicrope put it, jazz is “like a sport– the best way for our students to grow is to play.”
Through home-stays and visits to such places as Soweto, Robben Island, a housing project, and the Apartheid Museum, the jazz students immerse themselves in South African culture. At the concert on Sunday, Samara commented on the powerful connections formed in South Africa between two seemingly different cultures. The universal language of jazz connects the Milton students to each other and to the South African people, creating a life changing experience for everyone involved.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=4094