Class notes: Music sessions inspire the next generation

single-meta-cal October 4, 2023

“What is jazz?” was the first question asked by Huntsville-based artist, musician and producer Kelvin Wooten.

“A fusion of blues and gospel,” answered a Lee High School student.

Multi-instrumentalist and Grammy award-winning producer Kelvin Wooten encourages a Lee High School student during a masterclass workshop. Wooten is wearing a black zip-up jacket and black ball cap. The student is wearing a gray sweatshirt.

Multi-instrumentalist and Grammy award-winning producer Kelvin Wooten encourages a Lee High School student during a master class session. (Photo credit: Jim Teed)

Wooten’s reply was simple: “It’s an American art form.”

A Grammy award-winning artist, Wooten was one of several musicians recently selected to participate in a series of free master class sessions. The sessions are an annual tradition, held at a different public school each Monday in September, following a Jazz in the Park performance.

The goal is to build musical bridges between music students and professional artists.

Hometown pride

The students shuffled in their seats, inching closer to Wooten’s words as he filled a dry erase board with notes and rhythms. The students clapped along to Wooten’s written lesson.

“All my starts and beginnings came here in North Huntsville,” said Wooten, whose credits include Whitney Houston and the “Django Unchained” soundtrack. “Don’t let this humble beginning be a deterrent from reaching your goals.”

Wooten also described himself as “a husband, a father and a kid from Huntsville.”

‘The next headliner’

Kenny Anderson, Director of the City of Huntsville’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, called the sessions “essential” to cultivating the city’s music environment.

Kelvin Wooten sits behind a keyboard in a classroom at Lee High School. He is wearing a black jacket and black ballcap. His keyboard is red.

Multi-instrumentalist Kelvin Wooten looks up from his keyboard during a music master class session at Lee High School. (Photo credit: Jim Teed)

“These events are about putting kids in a room with a world-class artist and watching their eyes light up when their question gets answered,” he said.

As the session ended, students jammed with Wooten on their respective instruments.

The notes collided in the room, creating a wholly original sound.

“What we’re doing here is investing in the next generation of local talent,” Anderson said. “What happens in our masterclass sessions could very well inspire the next headliner at Jazz in the Park.”

Jazz in the Park is held each September in Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville. Click here to learn more about Jazz in the Park and here to learn more about the City’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.