Before Jazz in Arizona opened the club The Nash in 2012, the nonprofit was considered an “old person’s organization,” according to venue executive director Joel Goldenthal.
“We didn’t have our own venue,” Goldenthal says, “So, we came up with a model that would attract young people. We had a series of breakfast meetings at somebody’s house. We invited stakeholders, especially student musicians and educators and asked what a venue would have to have. From day one, we had buy-in.”
Now the organization is renowned for helping teach youngsters about the genre. On Saturday, January 19, The Nash once again hosts Hot Dogs & Jazz, an opportunity for children and families to enjoy a program about the American-born music. The morning is spent with The Nash’s accomplished musicians who demonstrate the different instruments and styles of jazz to give kids a chance to move and sing to the music. Following the show, families can meet the band and enjoy free hot dogs.
“Music and the way jazz works, in particular, is such a model for behavior and values for young people,” Goldenthal says. “When you watch musicians play, you realize there’s self-respect, respect for fellow musicians and creativity. It’s not just a bunch of people blowing their instruments. There’s so much value to it.
“The exposure to jazz at a young age is so important. It all starts with exposure. There’s a jazz gene in people, I believe. All it takes is exposure to jazz to ignite that gene.”
Hot Dogs & Jazz attracts between 50 and 120 youngsters and their families for the “cool” event, as Goldenthal describes it. The Nash education interns — undergraduate or graduate students studying jazz — playfully perform.
“They all have personalities that are engaging with the young people,” he adds. “They perform for 45 minutes to an hour, and they perform music that goes through the different periods of jazz. They play material the kids can relate to. There’s a female saxophonist who plays a Justin Bieber tune that all the kids know. So, they’re relating to them right off the bat.”
Goldenthal says Hot Dogs & Jazz is equal parts education and exposure to the instruments.
“Kids don’t know what instruments sound like, or what makes what sound,” he adds. “It’s exposing them to the music, the artform and the instruments. They can make that connection.
“Many kids come up afterward and play the instruments. They can’t wait to get their hands on the drums or pluck the strings on the bass.”
The monthly program is geared toward elementary-age students, but The Nash staff doesn’t stick to an age limit. Education and The Nash are synonymous. Wynton Marsalis played the first note in the venue during a program for 140-plus elementary school students.
“The commitment to exposing youth to the music is a primary goal of the organization,” Goldenthal says. “We have been invited to present at the Jazz Education Network Conference in Las Vegas in January on how to build a youth-based jazz community.
“We’ve accomplished something nobody else has been able to figure out. It’s been an organic process.”
Hot Dogs & Jazz, The Nash, 110 E. Roosevelt Street, Phoenix, 602.795.0464, thenash.org, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, January 19, $3, $1 youth 12 and younger.