The closer you get to Hume Hall on the Canterbury School campus, the more likely you are to catch a few strains of jazz floating through the air.
Inside, budding musicians from throughout the region are taking part in the Litchfield Jazz Camp, taking place this summer on the school grounds in New Milford. The camp includes group instruction, public performances and, on July 23, College Night, where students met with representatives of respected music colleges and conservatories. About 350 students will go through the camp this summer.
Sofia Imbimbo, 17, of Darien, took a brief break from practicing with instructor Zaccai Curtis' combo to talk about her camp experience.
"It's my first year," she said. "My sister came here and learned a lot. I'm doing piano this week and voice next week. It's a great chance to try new things and learn new things."
Imbimbo plans to major in vocal performance in college and is considering programs at Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Michigan, among others. She then hopes to go to a conservatory for graduate work.
Curtis, the instructor, started with the jazz camp as a camper when he was 13, said Vita Muir, executive director of Litchfield Performing Arts and the camp's founder. It's not unusual for someone who comes to the camp as a student to return as a resident adviser, a teaching assistant and, if they are successful enough, eventually join the full-time faculty.
She views the camp's mission as more than just music instruction.
It's "finding a path to a happy, successful, fulfilling life," she said.
In a classroom down the hall, professionals Jon Michel on bass and Cory Cox on drums worked with some newer students, including trumpet player Matt Reich, 16, of Fairfield.
Right next door, a combo worked on Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" under the direction of Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere, who plays bass, and Ian Carroll on drums. The combo had two saxophone players as well as pianist Dylan Cortese, 14, of Newtown.
This is Cortese's third year attending the camp. He looked into the camp's offerings after getting involved in a jazz band at school.
"I had no idea how to solo," he said. "I wanted to improve my skill and ability."
He recalled his first summer attending the camp.
"I called my dad after the first week and said -- I begged him, really -- `Let me stay,' " Cortese said. "I learned so much in one week. Two weeks was three times as powerful." Read Full Article
Cortese attends Newtown High School and the Regional Center for the Arts in Trumbull. He plans to continue his music studies beyond high school.
"I'll definitely do something with music, at least minor in it," he said. "It's too much fun not to do it."
Cortese stays on campus during his weeks of jazz camp. This means he has the chance to take advantage of early-morning fitness classes before beginning a full day of music classes, including theory and composition workshops, master classes and electives, in addition to working with the combo.
Ben Stevens, on the other hand, comes to camp each day from his home in New Milford. The 16-year-old guitarist was in a combo that was working on the piece "Barbara." He's been playing guitar for six years, but was halfway through his first week attending the camp.
"I enjoy it; it's very immersive," he said. "A lot is demanded of you."
He's on campus from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, and returns at 7 p.m. for faculty concerts each night. Stevens said he's enjoying working on "Barbara," because it's complex and he likes the chord progressions.
Stevens heard about the camp through his teacher, and became interested because he wanted to try playing in an ensemble.
Litchfield Performing Arts, a nonprofit group, is the parent organization for both the Litchfield Jazz Camp and the Litchfield Jazz Festival. Accomplished professional musicians, including instructors from the camp, play the main stage at the festival, taking place this year Aug. 8 to 10, but students at the camp have an opportunity to perform on their own stage at the festival.
"I feel it's important to note that it's noncompetitive," Muir said. "We conduct placement auditions for the camp to place children in the right level for their abilities, but we don't tell kids they can't play."