Door County Schools Benefit from Birch Creek's Artists in the Schools Program

Posted October 24, 2019

More than 370 Door County students from choir and band programs at Gibraltar, Sevastopol and Sturgeon Bay schools took part in Birch Creek’s “Artists in the Schools” program on Monday, October 14, 2019. Artists in the Schools 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 and share their talent and experience with local public school music students.

This year, Birch Creek Jazz Faculty members Jeff Campbell (bass and Jazz I & II Program Director), Rick Haydon (guitar) and Reggie Thomas (piano) played classic jazz and popular tunes for the music students, along with sharing their sage advice on how to improve as young musicians. Each of these Birch Creek faculty performing artists traveled from far away (New York, St. Louis and Chicago) to perform at the Saturday night, October 12th, Associates’ Fundraiser event. They stayed in Door County over the weekend solely for the opportunity to meet and teach music students across the peninsula. During each session, Jeff, Rick and Reggie discussed their journey to becoming professional musicians and gave specific advice on how to approach practice and performance as music students.

Thank you so much for bringing us the Artists in the Schools series. Our students were inspired by the fabulous music and encouraged to hear that they could make mistakes in practice and grow from them. Our students are now inspired to practice. Our students loved the experience!!!” – Heidi Hintz, Band Director, Sturgeon Bay High School

Jeff Campbell has been coming to teach Big Band Jazz at Birch Creek each summer for 31 years. Jeff is the Jazz I and Jazz II Program Director and has held that position for 23 of his 31 years at Birch Creek. He has also given his time to community outreach in Door County through Birch Creek’s Artists in the Schools program since 2005. Jeff has carved out an impressive career as a bass player of extraordinary artistry, fluent in both the jazz and classical idioms. He lives in Rochester, New York and is an Associate Professor and Chair of Jazz Studies & Contemporary Media at the Eastman School of Music.

Rick Haydon had a 30+ year career as a music professor at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and is now Professor Emeritus at SIUE. He played a key role in the development of the University’s jazz program and recording studio. In addition to teaching Jazz students at Birch Creek each summer, Rick has many private jazz guitar students and serves on the summer faculty of Jazz at Lincoln Center Band Director Academy. Rick celebrated his 20th year as a member of the Birch Creek Jazz Faculty in 2019 and has given his time and musicianship to the Artists in the Schools program since 2006.

A man of many talents, Reggie Thomas plays piano, organ, guitar and sings vocals. He is the Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University and is a long-time consultant/clinician for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. Reggie fronts his own group with his wife, Mardra Thomas, and is a member of The Count Basie Orchestra and a rhythm section accompanist for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competitions. Along with Jeff and Rick, Reggie has made numerous visits to Door County in the off-season to be an instrumental part of Birch Creek’s Artists in the Schools since 2006.

The tour of Door County schools this year began at 9:00 AM in the Door Community Auditorium with four Gibraltar High School jazz students of Gibraltar Teacher and Jazz Band Director Charlie Eckhardt. The jazz combo then traveled to Sevastopol School to meet with 36 high school students in the band program led by Band Teacher Tanya Hasenjager. It was a colorful sight as the students were dressed in cowboy and cowgirl styles for their “Yee Haw” day during Homecoming Week. On to Sturgeon Bay High School where the Birch Creek Jazz Combo went to perform for Band Director, Heidi Hintz’s, and Choir Director, Leslie Hill’s 120 students from the Concert Bands and Concert Choirs, foll

owed by a session with the younger kids from Sunrise Elementary. Cheryl Pfister, Music Teacher at Sunrise Elementary, brought 180 3rd grade to 5th grade students to the lively afternoon session.

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 professional musicians. All were grateful for this unique interaction between professional music artists and young students who share a passion for music.

One Sevastopol student said it best,

“I want to say thank you for bringing in Reggie, Jeff and Rick to perform and talk with us I really enjoyed hearing their performances, stories and advice. Although almost everything they had said stuck with me the most memorable piece of advice was to listen to a piece you’re performing repeatedly until it’s memorized. This is memorable because I never realized that once hearing the way a piece was played that it would help you to play much more effectively. Which is a tip I’ll carry with me forever.”

Birch Creek, together with the artists, thanks the Skinner Family Fund for project sponsorship.