On Oct. 23, nine of the most talented students from the Fine Arts Center’s Jazz Studies program will take the stage at Genevieve’s lounge, located inside the Peace Center. The group, performing as the FAC Jazz All-Stars, will play great jazz music from the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, taking on standards by luminaries of the genre.
The show, called “Jazz Classics & More,” is the first in a series of shows created by the Peace Center’s president & CEO Megan Riegel and Steve Watson, the Fine Arts Center’s director of jazz studies. The shows are the newest fruits of a long collaboration between two of the Upstate’s arts-and-music standard bearers.
“We’ve always had a great friendship and partnership with the Fine Arts Center, and Steve Watson, who is an amazing musician himself, is also a phenomenal musical educator,” Riegel says. “He’s done such an amazing job to develop young talent, and over the years, we’ve talked about what else we might do together.”
Riegel and Watson hit upon the idea of having students from the Fine Arts Center perform a ticketed show at Genevieve’s that will give them one of their first experiences as paid musicians.
“Some of these kids are going to pursue careers in music, and we wanted to give them a leg up by giving them a resume-building, professional opportunity,” Riegel says.
“Best of the best” means that not all of Watson’s Jazz Studies students will get an opportunity to play; the nine-piece group was selected from a student body of 60 based on their skills, something that Watson says was not an easy process.
“Megan was adamant that everybody doesn’t get a trophy, and I’m all about that,” Watson says. “But it’s quite difficult to make a selection of people who can work together and create a product that would really stand out as the best of the best of the 2019-2020 school year.”
Watson says that the “best of the best” approach will be a motivation tool for his students for the next two shows in the series, which will be in February and April of 2020.
Partnership benefits students
The Peace Center-Fine Arts Center partnership extends beyond just these three shows, though. The Peace Center often has visiting artists give pre-show master classes, and Fine Arts Center students have long been able to attend those classes for free.
This year, along with the concert series, the Peace Center has created a pilot program for a songwriting class at the Fine Arts Center, sending singer/songwriter Maia Sharp, who often performs at the Peace Center and conducts songwriting workshops with South Carolina’s own Edwin McCain, to the Fine Arts Center to teach students from the Jazz Studies program about songwriting.
“While Maia’s in town, she’ll be going to the Fine Arts Center and working with Steve to develop a songwriting program,” Riegel says. “This partnership is about fostering young talent. Let’s give these guys the tools, and let’s give them the platform.”
If you go
What: FAC Jazz All-Stars present “Jazz Classics & More”
Where: Genevieve’s (Peace Center), 300 S. Main St., Greenville
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 23
Info: 864-467-3000, https://www.peacecenter.org/