Everette Benton and Marvin Cooper, juniors from East St. Louis, are first-year members of JazzU and play in the rhythm section of our Miles Davis Group. For both young men, working with an ensemble has been a profound learning experience and a great way to meet new people.
Everette, the group’s drummer, began playing in middle school. “Just being exposed to music got me into it,” he says. And through Jazz St. Louis, he finds inspiration in meeting professional musicians. “I got to meet Cyrus Chestnut and Jon Faddis. They talk and they walk like normal people, but in reality, when they pick up an instrument, it’s like superhuman…it wows me. I think to myself, I want to do this. I want to do what they’re doing,” he says.
As for Marvin, the bassist in his JazzU ensemble, music first came with the tuba. “To tell you the truth, I used to watch Arthur [the PBS show]. Buster on the show played tuba and I decided I wanted to play tuba”—which he still plays in the ESLH marching band. But in contrast to the structured style of marching band, Marvin sees the art of jazz as a unique means to express himself and relax when he plays. For him, Jazz St. Louis has been a creative outlet and a continued education in the fundamentals. “It fills those gaps…with improvising, memorizing, and learning about the history of music. It…gives me another opportunity to play,” he says.
“[JazzU] teaches me the basics…improving me and the group as a whole every time we come here,” says Everette. Still, neither can deny the nervous energy and anticipation as Essentially Ellington approaches: “Sitting up on that stage and seeing the audience…is nerve-wracking, but cool at the same time. I can’t wait to get all those feelings,” says Marvin.
One week from today, Everette and Marvin will compete in Essentially Ellington. We wish them and the ESLH Jazz Band all the best!