MONTCLAIR, NJ - Thirteen New Jersey high school and college musicians have traveled to Peru for nine days of performances, master classes, jam sessions and sightseeing.

The group left on June 25 and the trip marks the inaugural international outing for Jazz House Kids, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that has gained a reputation as one of the nation's preeminent jazz arts education and performance organizations. Joining the group on the trip will be Jazz House Kids president and founder, vocalist Melissa Walker, along with director of student performance, Ted Chubb and teaching artist Oscar Perez. Walker and Chubb will perform with the students and Perez directs the ensemble. 

The visit is being supported in part by the United StatesEmbassy in Peru, which the band will have an opportunity to tour during their stay, and will include nine concerts at Peruvian clubs, schools, and cultural centers. Lima-based Jazz educator and trumpeter Angel Irujo helped coordinate the itinerary and the Jazz House Kids musicians will play a few joint concerts with his student organization, Jazz Groove Peru.

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This long-in-the-works trip to Peru enables Jazz House Kids and the young musicians who have studied there to participate in two time-honored traditions in jazz: spreading America's homegrown music around the world, and learning about the sounds and rhythms of other cultures to incorporate them into their music. (Latin musical traditions have made an especially rich contribution to American jazz.)

"We like to think of jazz as an inclusive global umbrella that unites young people, fans, families and musicians," said Walker.  "Music has no language barriers, and, as 'Jazz Citizens' of the world, we are thrilled to be able to take part in this cultural exchange program with our emerging artists."  

Highlights of the Peruvian trip include master classes in Afro-Peruvian Percussion in Lima and at the National Conservatory of Music; performances at the Peruvian Japanese Cultural Center and British Cultural Center; school concerts at Colegio Humboldt, Colegio Abraham Lincoln and Salesian College; and an evening performance at Cocodrilo Verde Jazz Club. 

Considered one of the premier youth groups in the nation, the Jazz House Big Band has won numerous group, section, and soloist awards at competitions, including two second-place finishes at the highly regarded Essentially Ellington at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Students are selected through competitive audition and commit at least a full year to the group.   

Eighteen-year-old Birsa Chatterjee, a new graduate of Montclair High School attending Oberlin College in the fall is looking forward to the trip to Peru to share his passion for jazz. He has spent a summer working with and teaching music to children in the slums of Kolkata, India. "My journey with jazz started when I was in sixth grade," said Chatterjee. "I had played clarinet in elementary school and learned the Tabla (Indian drums) at the age of five, but when I first heard jazz, I fell in love with it. At Jazz House Kids, you see students from many backgrounds, and everyone is on equal footing no matter what one's race or social status. Jazz House Kids has given me a world-class music education, a plethora of master educators and most importantly, a family."