By Rachael Williamson
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – Scholars with master’s degrees in jazz will showcase their talent and their knowledge of the timeless and creative world of jazz this month at Camden County College.
The Swing Jazz portion of the six-week America’s Music series will take place April 7 on the Blackwood campus. The America’s Music series was designed to allow professors to perform in an environment where students can attend, while also giving them the opportunity to learn from scholars who are experts and enthusiasts in the subjects. Film screenings, readings and discussions are led by the scholars for public audiences.
Jazz music is an urban folk art. It was never truly commercially successful. Many say it’s because money wasn’t what fueled jazz performers. “It’s never been about the pay and that’s been the demise of jazz’s commercial success. It was just fun,” says Professor Michael Billingsley, a scholar who will host and perform at the event.
The Swing Jazz event will be unique because it will have the only performance with three faculty members. Having an education and knowledge of the subject, the performers and lecturers will be speaking with much authority. “We are a jazz faculty. We do other things, but primarily, this is what we do,” says Billingsley.
The event will begin with a performance. The performance will display the various subgenres that separate jazz, such as bebop, soul jazz and swing. The faculty members will perform and explain various jazz compositions.
“This gives the community a chance to see the faculty in their natural element as well as a chance to have many ‘mysteries’ of performing jazz revealed,” says Professor Robert Smith, a scholar and performer.
The films will show a different side of jazz, revealing the gender inequality and racism that many performers have faced throughout history. The movie will generate many of the topics of discussion. “We aren’t looking to stir up controversy,” says Smith. “I allow them (the audience) to expose their opinions with me and each other.” The discussion will include a variety of students, faculty members and members of the public of all ages.
For students who don’t often listen to jazz, Billingsley suggests, “If you’re really looking to experience or hear something new, you can trust jazz to be something you haven’t heard before.”
The Swing Jazz event will take place at 6 p.m. April 7 in Civic Hall in the Connector Building on the Blackwood campus. The event is free. For more information, email Billingsley at email@example.com.