More than 800 kids from local schools filled the bleachers and floor of the school’s gym as Rodriguez, Hooper and the band took them through the various forms of jazz. The students represented 11 area schools, grades three through twelve.
The jazz professionals were in Solvang for the second annual Jazz Festival, and many of the students had heard Rodriguez during last year’s inaugural jazz fest. Hooper, the drummer with the original Jazz Crusaders, took the mike first to welcome the students, urging them to “sit back and relax and listen and enjoy.”
Hooper also reminded the kids, “Jazz is American. It was born right here in America, and it has gone out all over the world.”
Then on came trumpeter Rodriguez, who guided the students through the categories of jazz, naming each one and exhorting his audience to yell the words back to him. After each category was named, Rodriguez led the band in a sample of the music.
“Jazz is different, it keeps changing all the time,” he told the kids, and the band struck up “When the Saints Go Marching In.” What kind of music is this?” he asked. “Dixieland!” The youngsters chanted back in unison: “Dixieland!”
Next, Rodriguez gave a sample of the blues, blowing the trumpet and singing about his roots in East L.A. Rodriguez told the kids in a mournful tone, “The blues are meant to express sorrow, when you feel deeply in your heart, like when you’ve forgotten to do your homework.”