MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair-based Jazz House Kids has announced that two of its own students, Matthew Whitaker and Alexis Morrast, performed and won at two separate “Showtime at the Apollo” amateur competitions.
15-year-old Matthew Whitaker, stole the show in December with his rendition of “I Wish,” by Stevie Wonder. The accomplished composer, arranger and piano prodigy from Hackensack and Jazz House Kids’ long-time student is a frequent performer at the Apollo and opened for Stevie Wonder's induction into the Apollo Hall of Fame. He is also the youngest recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award which he received in 2016.
15-year-old Alexis Morrast, a student of the Jazz House Kids Vocal Academy, celebrated her win at the latest “Showtime at the Apollo” amateur competition. The Plainfield resident began her singing career at church when she just was 3-years-old. Morrast sings in the Matthew Whitaker + Friends quartet alongside Gabrielle Garo, Wes Whitlock and Donovan Marshall.
Matthew Whitaker & Friends recently headlined at the 9th annual Body & Soul, Jazz House Kids’ signature benefit to support its music & education programs. Held at Van Vleck Home & Gardens in Montclair, NJ, the event featured a trio of swinging jazz clubs featuring Brazilian trumpet master Claudio Roditi + the Bossa Trio in the Rio Lounge, the award-winning Jazz House Big Band and Whitaker’s band in the Sugar Cane Club.
According to Melissa Walker, President and Founder of Jazz House Kids, the success of these two outstanding students speaks to the role that the organization plays in the development of young people through music, mentoring, education and apprenticeship programs. "Our mission is to transform young lives and open doors to the future so they may become engaged citizens of the world,” she said. “We couldn’t be more proud of Matthew and Alexa’s outstanding accomplishments, and we’re confident that they will both continue to take their musicianship to the next level.”
Celebrating its 15th year in 2017, Jazz House Kids provides in-school jazz education programs and instruments for more than 650 students at 16 urban schools in four New Jersey counties. At the Jazz House in Montclair, 200+ students, ages 8 to 18 who hail from 45 school districts participate in nationally-recognized instrumental and vocal ensemble classes and private lessons. The Jazz House also has classes for weekend instrumental classes for adults and a WEBOP program for toddlers and their adults. The intensive Jazz House Summer Workshop led by Jazz House Kids Artistic Chair, 5-time GRAMMY Award-winning bass virtuoso Christian McBride, trumpeter and educator Ted Chubb and other renowned teaching faculty and special guests, attracts 150 students from across the state, country and, more each year, internationally. Jazz House Kids bridges the gap in arts education; 40% receive tuition assistance for private lessons, housing, meals and transportation.
A hallmark of Jazz House Kids is its many performances throughout the year in partnership with community organizations and businesses. Last year, Jazz House Kids students performed before 25,000 people, including thousands attending the organization’s signature event, its “no tickets required” Montclair Jazz Festival directed by Christian McBride. Held each August, the festival attracts 8,000 music fans from the East Coast and beyond.