Birch Creek Big Band Jazz Faculty Trio Visits Door County Schools for Artists in the Schools

Posted October 12, 2022

EGG HARBOR, Wis. (October 10, 2022) – Birch Creek Big Band Jazz faculty musicians provided music education for students at several area Door County school districts on Monday, October 10, 2022. Reggie Thomas, piano, Rick Haydon, guitar, and Jeff Campbell, bass, made stops at Southern Door, Sturgeon Bay, and Sevastopol schools for Birch Creek’s “Artists in the Schools” program. Nearly 300 elementary, middle, and high school students from general music, choir and band programs participated.

Artists in the Schools (AIS) began in 2002 as a way for Birch Creek and its faculty to give back to the community. Each year, nationally acclaimed faculty return to Door County to share their talent and experience with local public school music students. The AIS program was put on hold in 2020 and 2021 when Covid-19 protocols forced school constraints. This year, Birch Creek’s professional faculty musicians and Door County students joyfully reunited.

Jeff Campbell Sevastopol School Artists in the Schools

At each school, the jazz trio mixed performance with dialogue about their journey to becoming professional musicians. Thomas, Haydon and Campbell also fielded students’ questions. One Southern Door middle schooler asked how long it took the professionals to learn improvisation.

This is a lifelong quest,” revealed Thomas, a professor at Northern Illinois University. As Jeff Campbell, Eastman School of Music professor and Birch Creek’s Big Band Jazz program director, nodded in agreement, Thomas added, “We’re old dudes and still trying to learn this stuff!”

Haydon, professor emeritus of music at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, named jazz artists such as Albert King, Freddie King and BB King as being among his major musical influencers and spoke about the importance of carrying on the tradition of classic American jazz and blues.

“It’s up to you to keep it going,” said Haydon, pointing at the students in the audience.

Southern Door Middle School Director of Bands Dawn Pitzen said AIS provides an amazing opportunity for her students.

“For Birch Creek to be able to bring in some world-class musicians for our students to see what’s available outside of Door County, be exposed to some amazing music, and hear that these people started where they were and that they just found their love of music and took it further,” said Pitzen, appreciatively.

From beginning to end, Birch Creek’s Artists in the Schools was a thrill to be part of for all involved – music teachers, students and the musicians alike. All were grateful for this unique interaction between professional music artists and young students who share a passion for music.

“I love getting to interact with the students and hopefully getting them to feel what we feel when we play,” said Thomas as he warmed up on the keyboard in Sevastopol’s band room. “So, we’re just trying to spread some joy and get people to love some of the things we love.”

Birch Creek, together with the artists, thank the school districts and music teachers for their participation and support.