(CBS 5) – Maurice Levich uses jazz to bring generations of musicians together. Under his direction, musicians young and old make magic side by side.
At the opening of the 11th Annual Generations in Jazz Festival in early March, Levich guided his musicians through a sound check, holding his trumpet and wearing a smile.
“They’re 70 years apart, but they’re on the same page at the same time,” Levich said enthusiastically. “Is that the most beautiful thing you could imagine?”
The group is known as The Big Band of Rossmoor. Fifteen years ago, when Levich was asked to direct the senior citizens, they didn’t have enough members, so he recruited middle school students.
“When people play together, when they play music together, everybody grows. It’s uniting. It brings the community together,” Levich explained.
At first, college freshman Erin Grant feared the generation gap would hit a sour note when she joined the band, at age 12, to play the saxophone.
“I am going to sit in with some geezers over here, I have no idea what they’re like, how they can play. I’m probably going to be bored out of my mind,” Grant remembered thinking. “I sat down, and at the end of the rehearsal, I was just blown away.”
The band performs up to 18 concerts a year. Off stage, students keep seniors in tune with today’s culture. And the old timers become music mentors.
“They have amazing life stories from war veterans to people who’ve played with outstanding jazz musicians throughout their lives,” Grant said.
Ninety-year-old Frank Como used to work with music greats Lionel Hampton and Leonard Bernstein. He now arranges the band’s music, alongside Levich.
“It’s just something that keeps us both young, actually,” Como added.
Ten years ago, Levich co-founded Generations in Jazz, a nonprofit foundation to encourage senior-student music mentorship and support under-served kids with music programs and instruments. Every year, the foundation puts on a summer workshop where 200 seventh through twelfth graders get one-on-one training by professional jazz instructors.
Seventeen-year-old Stiles White says thanks to Levich, music is now one of his favorite things.
“I’ll always have this band,” White said. “I’d say it was definitely a milestone in my life.”
“The joy for me is to see everyone collaborate in such a positive way,” said Levich.
So for bringing thousands of students and senior citizens together to make music, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Maurice Levich.
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