Hot Java Cool Jazz: Musicians’ talent goes virtual after concert canceled

This spring would have marked the 25th anniversary of Starbucks Hot Java Cool Jazz, an annual benefit concert at the historic Paramount Theatre in Seattle that’s raised more than $700,000 for local school jazz music programs.

Although it’s been canceled and rescheduled to next year because of COVID-19, the spirit of community and innovation – the spirit of music – still remains strong.

Dominic Nye, one of the students who was scheduled to perform, a senior from Edmonds-Woodway (Wash.) High School, has been putting on Facebook Live performances from his lawn every Friday night. His jazz band director, Jake Bergevin, has been putting on similar events from his deck for his neighbors on Thursdays.

And the Garfield High School jazz band, another of the five schools that was to perform at the Paramount, recently put on this virtual concert, where they performed Count Basie’s Blues Backstage.

In many ways, their efforts mirror those of other musicians and artists worldwide, who are finding new ways to keep community going during trying times – whether it’s flash mobs out of windows in Italy, or master cellist Yo-Yo Ma starting a project called #songsofcomfort, or the original cast of the Broadway show Hamilton reuniting virtually to surprise a 9-year-old super fan.

“Many have turned this obstacle into an opportunity to learn some new platforms, programs and apps to broaden their musicianship and network,” says Bergevin, director of the Edmonds-Woodway High School Jazz Band. “Supporters are hungry for jazz and fellowship, and gratitude from neighbors and community is abundant.”

The high school jazz bands that would have performed this year include Edmonds-Woodway, Garfield, Mountlake Terrace, Ballard and Roosevelt. Even though the concert had to be canceled, Starbucks will support the schools with a $68,000 donation, split evenly to each school’s jazz music program.

“Hot Java Cool Jazz is one of my favorite events of the year. I am very proud to work on a program that supports such amazing talent in our hometown of Seattle,” said June Ashley, Starbucks manager of community partnerships. “These students work so hard all year to perfect their skills and share their passion of jazz with everyone. We are so sad that our 25th Anniversary show had to be canceled due to COVID-19. We are looking forward to a 25th REDUX show next year!”

Since 1995, Starbucks Hot Java Cool Jazz has been celebrating the passion of young musicians and cultivating the future of jazz. Earlier this year, before the pandemic hit the U.S., Starbucks interviewed more than 70 jazz students, jazz band directors and local Seattle musicians.

Click through to hear their reflections on jazz and the future of jazz, their explanations for why they chose the instrument they did and their thoughts on several other topics.

-- Michael Ko