New York is a city full of treasures. There's a hidden treasure not even many New Yorkers know about, tucked away up in Harlem, a block from Grant's Tomb and in the shadow of Riverside Church.
It's Manhattan School of Music, at Broadway and 122nd St.
For many years, it was eclipsed by the more famous Julliard School, but MSM, celebrating its 90th anniversary, has become a world-class music conservatory breaking new ground in many areas -- especially jazz. Manhattan School of Music is one of the few schools to have a full jazz arts program, thanks largely to the efforts of Justin DiCioccio, assistant dean and chair of the Jazz Arts Program.
I've been friends with Justin, who is recognized internationally as one today's foremost jazz educators and is in the Jazz Education Hall of Fame, for nearly 20 years. We worked together in the late 1980s, when I directed McDonald's PR and community relations and Justin ran the McDonald's High School Jazz Program.
I was at the school tonight for one of dozens of free (yes, free!) concerts they present throughout the school year. Tonight the MSM Concert Jazz Band -- 20-something pieces strong -- celebrated the 50th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein's music for West Side Story, with arrangements by masters like Dave Grusin, Don Sebesky, and Michael Abene. (If you're a jazz fan, you'll definitely recognize these names from the liner notes of your favorite albums.) Master trumpeter Jon Faddis, who Justin just brought onto the MSM faculty, was the featured soloist. And did I mention the show was free?
If you're in New York or planning to visit, and if you love straight-ahead jazz , big band or Latin/Afro-Cuban jazz (or classical or opera), check out the concert schedule and come up to Harlem for some great music. They're college students, but if you close your eyes, you could be in The Blue Note, The Village Vanguard or the late Village Gate. Many will go on to become tomorrow's jazz stars.
Click here to see the concert calendar.
If you're planning to check out one of the MSM jazz concerts, let me know and I'll buy you a beer or a coffee after the show. I'll be there.