Tag Archives: jazz education

Viktor Zappner: the Burnie jazz angel

Burnie, Tasmania

SOME weeks ago I was ruminating about how Burnie High School in Tasmania came to be included on the itineraries of two international jazz performers in recent months.

Burnie is a small seaport on the northwest coast of Tasmania, with a population of less than 20,000, and although charming, is not necessarily a destination which would immediately spring to mind when planning a musican’s tour of Australia.

Well all is now revealed – the “angel” (theatrical that is) behind it is jazz enthusiast Viktor Zappner.

Viktor Zappner

A clinical psychologist and jazz pianist, Viktor came to Tasmania with his wife and daughters in 1979 from Czechoslovakia.

Dismayed at the lack of jazz on Tasmania’s north-west coast, he set about rectifying that situation.  He helped found the Jazz Action Society North West Tasmania, and has been president for most of  its 28 years. Now in his 70s he remains Director of the annual Devonport Jazz festival.  He has also played jazz piano at hundreds of local and overseas gigs.

But one of Viktor’s enduring ambitions has been to encourage a love and appreciation of jazz in young people.    A chance meeting with the Burnie High School Association President, Ant Dry, led to a proposal to use the Burnie High School’s new Performing Arts Centre to showcase Tasmanian, national and international jazz musicians in a Jazz Goes To School series.

Two programs in the series have already been held, and a third is scheduled for 23 March. The first two involved young UK band, Dixie Ticklers, and the world famous stride/ragtime pianist and vocalist, Judy Carmichael with guitarist Sam Dunn.  The third will feature Australian-born, New York based reeds player, Adrian Cunningham backed by Nick Haywood, bass, Alf Jackson on drums, and Viktor Zappner on piano.

 As part of the deal, the musicians give workshops for local high school students which have been hugely successful.

Here are Judy Carmichael and Sam Dunn with their workshop participants on 23 February.

Viktor Zappner’s philosopy behind the Jazz Goes To School series is:
“Young people are hooked on pop and rock and I wanted to expose them to jazz, to build not only an audience but for those who play instruments to try this genre.”

Easy to think and say, but few people have managed to put thought into action so effectively as has Viktor Zappner in bringing world class jazz to the young people of Burnie. No wonder he won the Tasmanian Local Hero section of Australian of the Year in 2012!

Jazz Workshops for under 25s: it’s that time again

Workshop students public appearance

IT hardly seems possible that a year has gone by since I was announcing the next Jazz Workshops for Under 25 year olds – but Marina Pollard, the Workshop Co-ordinator, assures me that it is true.

The 2013 series begins on Saturday 16 March and ends on Saturday 16 June, with 30 March off for the Easter holidays. Classes are held at the Victorian Jazz Archive, 15 Mountain Highway, Wantirna. (Melway Reference 63 C8) and run from 1pm to 4pm. Total cost for the course is just $75, which includes a Student Membership of the Victorian Jazz Archive.

The workshops are open to musicians under the age of 25. To participate they must already have some proficiency on their instruments, and most importantly, be keen to learn how to play jazz. Workshop tutors are all experienced jazz musicians wishing to share their passion for the music which is an important part of their lives. All music and charts are provided. Just bring your instruments. If you’re a budding drummer, ask about the Workshop’s drum kit which may be available for your use.

Here are some of the Class of 2012 with drum master, Brian Abrahams. Most of them are members of the Workshop Band, Running Wild, which has given a number of public performances.

2012 Workshop Participants

For further information or to book a place in this year’s Workshop, phone Marina Pollard, Workshop Coordinator, on 9791 4972 or email info@vicjazzarchive.org.au.

Jazz future in their hands?: Under 25s Jazz Workshop participants

Victorian Jazz Wokshop members playing at the launch of the “Future Knox Up In Lights” exhibition in Cinema Lane, Dorset Square, Boronia on 20 August 2012

THIS is one of the first public performances for participants in this year’s workshops for aspiring young jazz musicians run by Marina Pollard out of the Victorian Jazz Archive rooms at Wantirna. And appropriately it was connected with another youth activity: a community arts project run by the City of Knox for local school students to express their visions for the future of local parks and neighbourhood streets in their city using a variety of media. On August 20th the six winning entries went on display in the light boxes in Cinema Lane, Dorset Square, Boronia. The exhibition titled “Future Knox up in Lights” will run until November.

Since this gig, the Under 25’s Workshop Ensemble participated for an hour in Tommy Carter’s radio program “Jazz as you like it” on Radio 97.7 FM, and they are currently rehearsing for a performance at the Stringybark Festival in Rowville on Saturday 20 October. Marina is also negotiating for them to play at the Berwick Market in November. All great opportunities for these young musicians to get experience in public performance, and to build their musical ambitions.

Lizzie Watkins, guitar; Marcus Finne-Larsen, electric bass; Ashley Thomas, clarinet; Brian Abrahams, drums (tutor)

Ashley Thomas, clarinet & alto saxophone; Jennifer McCluskey, alto saxophone

Brian Abrahams, drums; Aaron Robertson, keyboard

Lizzie Watkins, guitar; Marcus Finne-Larsen, electric bass

Lizzie Watkins, guitar; Ashley Thomas, clarinet: Jennifer McCluskey, alto sax; Yang Chen, alto sax; Aaron Robertson, keyboard; Andre Lew, tenor sax; Liam Robertson, violin

Jazz Workshops have a long history in Melbourne. Before Marina took up the reins in about 2002, the Victorian Jazz Club – at the instigation of a group of musicians including Kevin Bolton, Dave Patton and Dawn Lock (now Houghton) in conjunction with Marj Burke – began presenting workshops for young people with jazz aspirations in 1984. Over the years the workshops provided a great opportunity for keen young musicians to expand their musical knowledge and to learn more about the history of jazz and how to play it. Many well known “older” musicians – including Ian Smith, Chris Ludowyk, Ian Hellings, Graham Coyle, Ross Anderson, John Adams, Graeme Pender, Pat Miller, Vince Hopkins, Ben Johnson, Fred Stephenson, Clint Smith etc. etc. etc -have given of their time and wisdom over the years. Some of the finest musicians who are now household names amongst the jazz fraternity came through these workshops: their list is also long but included Jo Stevenson, Ash Gaudion, Stephen Grant, Mark Elton, Lindsay Flint, Emelia Wilmot, Seb Girardot.

In about 2002 the Victorian Jazz Club was unable to find a volunteer to continue to run its Workshops. Marina Pollard stepped into the breech and set up a private business to offer a new workshop series which continues to this day with the cooperation of the Victorian Jazz Archive and the support of various jazz clubs, including the VJC. Marina’s devotion to the task of introducing young people to the joys of jazz has been and continues to be outstanding.

Anyone interested in participating in the Under 25s workshops or those for older musicians should contact Marina on 9781 4972 or by email at vhmarinap@bigpond .com