Members of Stanley’s Jazz Messengers perform at the annual Jazz Café. (photo: Shelly Hamalian)
This year’s Jazz Café at Stanley Middle School was an extra special one for Bob Athayde and his student musicians as it caps off a year of recognition for the Stanley music teacher and the school’s renowned jazz program.
Stanley’s Jazz Messengers band was named the country’s top middle school jazz band in DownBeat magazine’s 39th annual Student Music Awards.
Athayde, who has been Stanley’s music director for almost 30 years, also received the first Ann Denny award from the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce this year. The award goes to people who make extraordinary contributions to the Lafayette community.
Held in June every year, the Jazz Café transforms Stanley’s multi-use into a dimly-lit jazz club complete with a big band stage and attendees sitting at tables and enjoying refreshments under stings of twinkling lights. Proceeds from the event, which is run by parent volunteers, go to support Stanley’s jazz program.
“It’s definitely a great end to the year,” says Allison Shellen, chair of the Jazz Café. The concert brought together not only Stanley’s two jazz ensembles: The Jazz Crusaders and The Jazz Messengers, but also jazz performers from Acalanes and Campolindo high schools.
“It’s such a great community event,” she adds. “There aren’t too many things that bring together musicians from the different schools.”
Music teacher Bob Athayde thanks Jazz Café chair Allison Shellen. (photo Shelly Hamalian)
Athayde credits community and parent support for the success of Stanley’s music programs, but also notes that LPIE funding has been critical for developing such accomplished student musicians.
The Stanley music program has seven LPIE instructors that assist during the school day. Having additional instructors allows Athayde to break students into smaller groups so that they can have more individualized instruction.
“The kids get a lot of attention,” says Athayde. “If you want to improve, these teachers are here to help you.”
And of course, the dedication of the students themselves has played a huge role in the jazz program. Students in both jazz ensembles go to school early to rehearse at 7:20 a.m. The Jazz Messengers, which Athayde compares to the “Major League” of the two bands, practice three mornings a week, while the Crusaders practice two. Most sixth grade musicians start out in the Crusaders and work their way into the Messengers as they become more proficient at their instruments.
Shellen’s son Drew, an eighth grader who plays saxophone for the Jazz Messengers, was inspired to join after seeing the group perform when he was in fifth grade.
“He was so inspired that he said, ‘That’s my elective,’” recalls Shellen. “He’s had an amazing experience in Mr. Athayde’s classroom.”