By Susan Nolan
Rich in self-expression and characterized by improvisation, jazz has influenced every other popular American music genre since its beginnings in 19th century in the African American communities of New Orleans. Musicians who love it can’t get enough of it.
It’s no wonder musician and educator Steve Fidyk sees it as an art form worth preserving and sharing. “Kids deserve this. The greater Annapolis area deserves this,” says the founder and creative director of Naptown Jazz Kids, a local non-profit organization dedicated to the expansion and appreciation of jazz through education, performances, and community outreach.
In 2019, Fidyk, a drummer, and Chris Kaplan, a trumpeter, teamed up with other local musicians to create a summer camp program at Anne Arundel Community College. It was a success, but then the pandemic hit. At that point, Fidyk and Kaplan turned their attention to virtual programs instead.
Now with mask mandates lifted and the positivity rate dropping, Naptown Jazz Kids has found a new in-person venue in Maryland Hall, an arts center known for its variety of classes ranging from pottery to dance. “We are excited about this partnership,” says Claudette McDonald, education program coordinator at Maryland Hall. “Naptown Jazz Kids is really expanding the music programs and classes being offered here.”
While Fidyk and his colleagues plan to host a day camp for middle school and high school musicians in June, Naptown Jazz Kids is already opening up classes and workshops for mid-March. “Ideally, our students are 13 and up, but we really take it on a case-by-case basis,” says Fidyk. “A 9- or 10-year-old who has the interest and is active in a school music program or studying with a private instructor could really benefit from our programs.”
Don’t let the name fool you. Naptown Jazz Kids is for adults, too. Some programs, such as the 17-Piece Jazz Legacy Big Band Ensemble, are aimed at musicians looking to expand their repertoire and jam with other instrumentalists. Other classes are aimed at musicians and non-musicians alike. “We are offering a music appreciation course called Discover Jazz. It’s for anyone who wants to broaden their knowledge,” Fidyk adds. A music technology course will teach students about recording equipment, modifiers, software and hardware used in the industry.
Whether you are a seasoned musician or just someone who wants to know more about jazz, Fidyk welcomes involvement. “We have something for everyone.” Learn more at naptownjazzkids.org.