Irvine Barclay Theatre & Cheng Hall


Mix 300 middle school students with a 13-year-old Grammy nominee and stir to see what happens…

At 13 years of age, jazz pianist Joey Alexander is already a seasoned touring professional and a 2-time Grammy nominee.

Joey Alexander workshop on September 19, 2016Sunday  September 18th, Joey performed at a sold-out concert at Irvine Barclay Theatre. On Monday morning, the Barclay’s ArtsReach program paired him with 300 middle school students from Irvine Unified School District to see if we could ignite some creative sparks.

See more photos of the workshop

A few students appeared apprehensive about whether or not they like jazz, but they listened intently. Heads started to bob when the students recognized the melody of When You Wish Upon a Star and Amazing Grace. They seemed to really appreciate familiar songs presented to them in a new way. In addition, the Joey and his trio performed one of Joey’s own compositions entitled Ma Blues.

Afterward, students had the opportunity to ask questions of Joey and trio members, bassist Dan Chmielinski and percussionist Ulysses Owens, Jr. And they asked a lot of questions!

While Joey spoke about the importance of enjoying the process, flowing with the “soul of the music” and his “spiritual connection” to jazz, Dan and Ulysses provided practical, actionable answers to questions like:

“Since jazz is improvised, do you really have to practice?”
[Absolutely. Jazz musicians have to play and/or practice every day to keep their technique fluid and improvisational skills sharp.] Plus, they talked about the mental practice of listening to many different artists and figuring out their style and technique

 “At what age did you start playing music?”
(Ulysses and Dan started at ages 2 and 3, respectively. Joey was a late-bloomer at age 6.]

“How do you play on stage without being nervous?”
[It’s okay to be nervous. There are always some nervous moments, just channel the energy.]

“Who’s Joey’s favorite musician?”   [Thelonius Monk]

Of course, the students also wanted to know, “Do you go to school?” For the record, Joey is taking classes online.

Students enjoyed the music, and the Q & A session helped them more fully understand the world of jazz and professional musicianship. The Barclay’s ArtsReach program strives to inspire young people to explore the world through the arts and helps them develop stronger minds, increased confidence, and a sense of curiosity about the world. 

These activities are supported, in part, with funds provided by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts  allowing the Barclay to offer this opportunity to students at no charge.

2018-19 Season Sponsor