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Foto de Joseph Nartey
Foto de Joseph Nartey

La Voz Invites You: Jazz and the beating of the heart

Por Karen Ruiz León
April 2024
What do jazz, education, healing, and community have in common? In this article, you will find the answer through two local personalities and a special invitation. 
Roland Vázquez is a composer, drummer, producer, and educator who has been performing and recording his original Latin rhythmic chamber jazz for quintet, nonet, big band, and chamber ensembles for more than 40 years. For Vázquez, jazz is more than the intersection of various instruments. It is a way of connecting with our roots and with “the first musical tone that we hear in our lives: the heartbeat that we hear when we are inside of the womb.”

In his classes as an artist in residence in the department of music at Bard College, Roland teaches that jazz is a fusion of elements from Africa, America, Europe, and especially from the indigenous cultures from around the world. Sometimes jazz is based on improvisation, and it is always based on deeply listening, also in harmonizing sounds. Roland stresses that harmony is created when two separate entities come together to make something greater than the sum of their parts.

Dan Shaut is the son of a music teacher; he grew up surrounded not only by musical mastery but also seeing the process of making music. Dan connected with jazz, and it influenced him greatly. The combination of musical talent and intense collaboration that is found in jazz was a guide for his own musical goals.

Dan conducts the Hudson Valley Youth Jazz Orchestra (HVYJO). This is the principal youth jazz orchestra of the region, and it is open by audition to students between eighth and twelfth grade, or youth who are less than 18 years old. HVYJO performs music of university/professional level and offers students the opportunity to work together, as well as with world-class guest artists.

The invitation: Let´s go to the jazz concert!
Consider that music is a language that we all have, that makes us happy, brings people together, and is especially healing when we connect it with the breath and body through movement. Do you remember the familiar rhythm that we call the clave, pa-pa-pa-papa? Now that you have it in mind, close your eyes, play the beat by clapping your hands, and submerge yourself in the cadence… You feel it in your veins and your skin, it captures you, and it surrounds you, right?

As Roland said, “Rhythm is older than borders, it is evolution and we have been playing it since before we could speak with words.” Jazz is like that, it is a verb, an inexhaustible source, a mental state that allows you to connect beyond geographic, racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural divides, it is humble with a sense of community where musicians from a multitude of origins interconnect to create together. It is collective as it allows us to share our ancestors’ heritage. It is a form of racial healing where we can reconcile with the past because jazz belongs to everyone, regardless of country or culture of origin.

Jazz allows us to heal together through sounds that become a melody and that reconnect us to that ancestral rhythm that we all carry within us: the heartbeat.

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, La Voz in collaboration with the Community Arts Collective of Bard College, invites you to a free jazz concert on Sunday, April 28th at 4 pm at Olin Hall, Bard College (35 Henderson Circle Drive, Red Hook, NY 12571). Roland Váquez’ Jazz Band and Dan Shout & the Hudson Valley Youth Jazz Orchestra will perform.

* Translated from Spanish by Miriam Schwartz and Karen Ruiz León
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La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson



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