St. Augustine Orchestra chair to mentor Ponte Vedra High students in jazz

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The St. Augustine Orchestra will kick off its 2017-2018 concert season this month by featuring the works of American composers, and orchestra chairman and bassist Mitch Kolesaire is excited.

“Our seasons run from September to May,” he said. “The first concert of the season is Oct. 13, it’s a Friday evening, and it’s at Anastasia Baptist Church, and we’re really happy that the church has been willing to host us.”

While Kolesaire – who was elected chairman this past spring – is eager for the return of the concert season, he has another source for his enthusiasm this year. Throughout the school year, Kolesaire will spend his time offstage sharing his love of jazz with Ponte Vedra High School students.

“I give private lessons, and one of the young men that I’ve been teaching is Jason Routsis,” Kolesaire said. “Jay’s love of bass is on the jazz side, and so he has started this year, for the first time, the Ponte Vedra High School Jazz Club. They will meet as a club before school, and I’m the volunteer to go in there and work with the kids on their jazz skills.”

Although the club will be run by the students, Kolesaire said that he intends to mentor them in jazz soloing techniques.

“My first goal is to get them to fully understand the jazz blues form and be able to solo confidently with it,” he explained. “I’m going to emphasize more playing by ear. I’ll give them tips and techniques, but at the end of the day, I’m asking the kids for their opinion through the musical instrument, as opposed to having written music in front of them all the time.”

Kolesaire added that the club will complement the music lessons students receive in school, and will challenge them as individual musicians.

“That’s how we expand their musicianship and skill set—by giving them different challenges,” he said. “They will gain confidence in standing up and taking a solo just by having the chance to do it in a fun, supportive session without a grade.”

As for his main piece of advice to young students, Kolesaire said it was simply to listen to more music.

“The sooner you start listening to professional talent, the sooner you realize what you can achieve with just a little bit of work,” he said.

The St. Augustine Orchestra, led by Maestro Scott Gregg, will hold its first concert of the season Friday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. at Anastasia Baptist Church, which is located at 1650 A1A South in St. Augustine. Featured composers will include Leroy Anderson, Meredith Willson, Leonard Bernstein and more. Tickets are $20 for adults, $5 for students and free for children 12 and under, and will be available both at the door and online at https://staugustineorchestra.org.

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