NCJF Jazz Education

Christa Faison is an amazing and dedicated teacher! Her love for her students is what impresses me the most.

The students are the most prepared and best behaved group I have ever worked with. It’s a highlight of the North Carolina Jazz Festival for me to be able to teach at the Snipes Academy. The dedication to there students is amazing and should be an example for other programs in the area! ~ Dion Tucker

“My daughter Cate thoroughly enjoyed her experience with Harry Allen! Thanks for offering this wonderful opportunity to local students and to offer it at no charge! Cate and I really enjoyed the Friday night performance too.” ~ Melina Wooten Shepard

Tim McCoy, past band director at New Hanover High School, best described his students’ experiences; “Students were exposed to some tremendous ideas by the clinicians, from traditional blues scale improv to the many thought processes that go into playing an instrument. Students were invigorated to try these ideas once we returned to school and they are much less fearful of improvising.”

Ramon Garcia, bass student, ” I found that being in Herman Burney’s master-class very fun and informative. We worked on learning the melody and chord changes to a blues song. After that we all took turns improvising over the changes and received feedback from Mr. Burney. It was an awesome experience.”

From Galen Hunsucker, professional guitarist and music educator for over thirty years, “Each student who I have brought to this has conveyed to me that they not only have they learned a lot, but more importantly, were greatly inspired. To me, when someone can inspire young people to be better and work on their craft as he has, well that is PRICELESS, and life affirming, possibly life changing.”

From Chuck Redd, who teaches the percussion master-class, stated, “It’s a joy to work with the young musicians at our master-classes at The North Carolina Jazz Festival! I am always delighted and inspired by the creativity and enthusiasm of the students. I look forward to sharing musical concepts and techniques with the bright players attending my class in 2020!”

In April, we celebrated Jazz Appreciation month by bringing local musicians to Sunset Elementary school in Wilmington, NC. The Jon Hill Quartet- (Jon Hill-percussion, David Canning-Bass, Carlos Garcia-piano, Jay Killman-guitar) played jazz for over 300 students!

The musicians started with a Thelonius Monk jazz tune called “Blue Monk”. Jon Hill then asked the students to raise their hand if they played an instrument, and quite a few students raised their hands! The musicians took turns playing their instrument and explaining its role in a jazz band. They also played examples of how they can improvise any song to a jazz style. They played the Fred Flintstones cartoon theme and made it “jazzy”! The students were delighted with hearing live jazz music and ask many questions. The Jon Hill quartet musicians encouraged the students to learn to play an instrument and for those that do play to continue to learn their instrument and to stick with it.

One of our favorite things about the Festival is the school concerts we present with our really amazing musicians who play at the Festival. Music education for the next generation are a big part of our Mission, and our musicians are on board with that, in fact, many of them are involved in music education all year long.

The NC Jazz Festival musicians performed for about 250 music students at Roland Grise middle school. The eager students were excited to hear live jazz! Adrian Cunningham-lead, discussed how there is the rhythm section and the front line. He talked about how the instruments play an important role individually and together as a team. Adrian is from Australia and told the students about his fascination with American jazz at an early age. He stressed to the students to learn about American jazz as it is their music. Alvin Atkinson-percussionist, had the students do some beat exercises “shuffle and swing” with their hands. He talked about the significance of percussion in the rhythm section. Bria Skonberg called the trumpet the “call to action” instrument and talked about its role in the “front line”. The trumpet is an important instrument for melody to the song and to jazz music. Cynthia Sayer played the banjo and discussed its role in early American jazz. Jim Fryer compared the trombone to our voice in that we use both to express ourselves. At the end, the students and the musicians had a question and answer session-students had many questions to the delight of the musicians!

One of our concerts the musicians went to was Snipes Academy of Arts & Design. There were 412 young students, kindergarten through 5th grade. Our All-Star musicians played tunes by Miles Davis, and discussed his life and musical evolution. The students had had some previous instruction about Miles Davis, and during the question and answer session, asked some great questions.
Each musician also talked about their own instrument and their jazz “conversations” with the other instruments .


Cynthia Sayer, Katie Thiroux and Bria Skonberg went to Girls Leadership Academy Of Wilmington (GLOW), and talked about women being accepted as jazz musicians. Cynthia discussed how difficult it was at first to be recognized as a serious jazz musician. Bria expressed her thanks to Cynthia for being the barrier breaker and making it easier for her and others. The ladies did a showcase of sounds/styles of jazz for the students. The musicians established a great rapport with the students and they all had a good time!

The NC Jazz Festival had another fabulous year with the music masterclass! We had about 70 music students participating from Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick Counties. We had 8 masterclasses for music students held at the Ballast Hotel on Friday during the festival. 30 students attended the Friday evening performance at no cost to see and hear their masterclass teacher, along with the other all-star musicians of the NC Jazz Festival play live JAZZ! This continues to be an awesome experience for the music students. Thank you to The North Carolina Arts Council and the Landfall Foundation as well as donations from our Jazz attendees who help make this experience possible.


Masterclasses are held every year at the downtown Hotel Ballast Wilmington during our festival. The NCJF world class musicians give music students
2 FREE hours of teaching in a small setting. Twenty (20) students are selected for each class. Names will be listed as received, on a first-come basis. Once the Class List is full, all other incoming names will be added to the Reserve List, again, in order of receipt.

Students that have participated in the master classes will have opportunity to see a live jazz performance that Friday night for free!

For more information please contact Laura Crane


NCJF joined with the Cape Fear Jazz Society (CFJS) and Gerry White’s Jazz Dining Co-op in an effort to support and enhance local jazz at an established “jazz mecca” here in Wilmington.

BURNT MILL CREEK WINE BAR AND BILLIARD HALL has been a dedicated Sunday night jazz scene for over a year now. The Benny Hill Trio hosts a “jam” there from 7 –11 pm every Sunday night—this gives local jazz musicians an opportunity to sit in and play with some of our best! During the evening you might hear UNCW jazz students, high school jazz students or well known jazz musicians who happen to be in town –all drawn to the “in spot” for jazz on Sunday nights.

The venue had the stage, the sound system, but no real piano. After a very short discussion among “die-hard” jazz lovers , the leaders of the above mentioned groups decided to do something about this need—a piano was found, movers were hired , as well as the piano tuner—and, voila! BURNT MILL CREEK WINE BAR AND BILLIARD HALL now has a piano!

BMC is not a restaurant, but a food truck is there to serve hungry jazzlovers!
Come join us for “jazz @ the pool hall” every Sunday night from 7 – 11pm.


All this made possible by grants from The Landfall Foundation and the Grass Roots Program of the NC Arts Council.