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Released March 26, 2004

JAZZREACH BRINGS NEW YORK GROUP TO SOUTHERN MISS

HATTIESBURG -- In 1987, the United States Congress declared jazz "a rare and national treasure." Yet, the art form remains on the fringe of the national consciousness and is woefully underfunded in many school music programs.

Responding to this shortfall, a New York City-based program, JazzReach, was established in 1994 by musician H. Benjamin Schuman and aspires to provide communities with cultural supplements to introduce young people to jazz and foster a greater appreciation and awareness of it.

Larry Panella, director of jazz studies at The University of Southern Miss, is bringing the nationally recognized program to Hattiesburg, along with its new resident jazz ensemble, Metta Quintet. In addition to a three-day residency for educational activities, the ensemble will give a public main stage concert at 7:30 p.m. April 1 in Bennett Auditorium.

"What makes this group so unique is that they are great players who have devoted themselves to the mission of educating students," Panella said. "Many of the students they perform for don't play an instrument, but are reached through creative multimedia presentations that involve narrations, video, and live performance."

Panella also explained that most jazz education efforts are focused on students who are learning to play an instrument. JazzReach not only reaches those students, but their mission is larger and more encompassing. "They (JazzReach) are out to build audiences as well. There is nothing like this organization that I know of to promote the vitality of jazz music and to claim its rightful place in American and world culture," Panella said.

Comprised of some of New York City's fastest rising jazz artists, Metta Quintet reflects JazzReach's ever-broadening artistic scope and aspirations to serve wider, more diverse audiences. The ensemble gives the program a vehicle for the promotion, creation and performance of all new works that aim to challenge convention and explore the jazz experience.

"Most people have never heard of these musicians before, but if you've ever listened to the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, or any of the other great groups based in New York City, you've probably heard them playing in those groups," Panella said of the group.

The residency at Southern Miss will include matinee performances for area school children, workshops for Southern Miss jazz students, and two evening performances. The April 1 concert at will be the first performance. General admission is $6 and free for Southern Miss students, faculty and staff.

For tickets, call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at (601) 266-5418 or (800) 844-8425, or order online at www.usm.edu/tickets.

The second concert will be held at 7 p.m. April 2 at the Advanced Education Center Auditorium on the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus in Long Beach as part of the Ambassador Series. For information, call (228) 863-9879.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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