group learning

A couple of young musicians are working to develop a performing-arts program to give even younger Volusia County musicians more chances to learn and perform.

The program for high-school and middle-school students will supplement music education in school. Geordan Raisler and Simon Jones have already established some ensembles that rehearse and perform.

“We are running the Unity Jazz Workshop, which is a place for developing improvisers to get together with other local students and develop their improvisational skills,” Jones said.

Raisler and Jones call their new enterprise Unity Performing Arts. Raisler said one of his goals is to provide year-round programs for students, similar to those typically offered in metro areas, but lacking in Volusia County.

He cites the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra in Orlando as an example. Unity wants to provide learning and performing experiences that mirror real-world settings.

One real-world experience will come Tuesday, June 21, when the Unity Jazz Combo will provide the music for Jazz on the Alley, a series of free Tuesday-evening concerts on Artisan Alley in Downtown DeLand. Raisler, Jones and five student musicians will perform 7-9 p.m.

“We will mostly be playing swing and pop tunes from the great American songbook,” Jones said — including songs from composers such as George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.

He added, “We will be set up in a jazz combo with a three-piece rhythm section that includes drums, bass and piano, as well as a horn section composed of saxophones and brass.”

Jones is a trombonist currently working on his bachelor’s degree in music education at the University of North Florida. He has played at some of the top jazz festivals in our area, including Lakeside Jazz Fest in Port Orange and the Jacksonville Jazz Fest.

Raisler plays double bass, studies music at the University of Central Florida, and is experienced in orchestral performance. Part of his plan is to enroll orchestral and voice students for study and performance as part of Unity Performing Arts, along with offering the students master classes with guest clinicians.

Progress on this project is in its early stages, but the organizers’ plans are ambitious. Unity’s website is about to go live.

Unity Performing Arts currently operates under the auspices of Ladies 327, a Seminole County-based nonprofit whose mission is to support other charitable organizations in numerous ways. Until Unity establishes its own nonprofit status, it will manage with such community help.

Another partner is the recently reorganized Lake Helen Creative Arts Center. Unity uses the CAC facility for rehearsals.

According to CAC board member Alan Cooke, there are 11 families working to continue the CAC and its work in Lake Helen.

“We are funding this out of our own pockets, so we can get things moving forward,” Cooke said.


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