Students at Central Medford High School were treated Wednesday to a live jazz concert in their auditorium, one of many provided to area schools thanks to the work of programs provided by Medford Jazz Festival.

Students at Central Medford High School were treated Wednesday to a live jazz concert in their auditorium, one of many provided to area schools thanks to the work of programs provided by Medford Jazz Festival.

The assembly ended with a performance of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain't Got that Swing)," which had some students singing "Doo-ah, doo-ah, doo-ah, doo-ah" as they filed out of the auditorium on their way to their next class.

But the festival's help in teaching students wasn't over.

Following the assembly seven students wielded acoustic guitars in a music class with professional musician and private music instructor Michael Saint John. He gave the sometimes rowdy class an introduction on guitar scale and music theory basics.

"A half-step is a note right next to another note up or down," Saint John said to the class while sitting on a platform in the music room with his guitar. "A whole step, you skip a note."

Saint John teaches the class weekly at the alternative high

school, thanks to the Medford Jazz Festival's Instruction in the Classroom program. The program began with Saint John in the spring term of last year and he now teaches classes at both Central and South Medford high schools.

"In eight short weeks a few of them knew even more than some people I teach professionally," Saint John said of his last year's students.

In the span of a year, a campaign that started by asking people to check their closets and donate unused instruments to help schools and music students has expanded into new opportunities for students across Medford.

In addition to the lessons, the students earn the opportunity to keep the instruments they're playing.

"Those students are able to earn those instruments with a couple strings attached," said Thomas Boruff, a board member of MJF Supports Music Education, which oversees the Jazz Festival's youth programs. "In order to excel in any music program they have to practice."

The requirements include a minimum C-plus grade point average and 70 percent attendance, plus passing a midterm and a final to demonstrate proficiency and to demonstrate that they're practicing. All of which can be challenging for students at the alternative high school.

"These students have a lot going on in their lives other than school," Saint John said.

One of the students who earned his guitar last year was senior Brandon "Bubba" Wissenback, who was in the class to build on what he learned last year.

"I haven't been playing that much since I've been busy with work," he admitted.

But a seed of music enthusiasm seemed to have been planted. His eyes lit up as he expressed interest in learning blues guitar and the music of Jack Black's comedy duo Tenacious D.

"I like playing the blues," Wissenback said.

Saint John is one of three music teachers who provide weekly music lessons sponsored by the Medford Jazz Festival. Other musicians funded through the festival teach a vibraphone and percussion class at McLouglin Middle School and a music class at the county's Juvenile Detention Center.

"This has proved so valuable because it doesn't add to the teacher's burden," Boruff said.

Boruff said the Jazz Festival's programs are meant to complement schools' music curricula.

"If a kid is interested in music and wants to learn an instrument, we're 100 percent behind them," Boruff said.

In addition to the new programs, Boruff said, the festival still works with area schools and Tom's Guitars of Medford to repair and refurbish district-owned and donated instruments for their music classes.

"We're making repairs to other instruments in the district," Boruff said. "There's two drum kits going out to Ruch Elementary tomorrow morning (Wednesday)."

Boruff still encourages people to check their closets for instruments, and said there's a particular need for trombones, violins, drum kits, upright basses and tubas. Donations can brought in during the Jazz Festival to the information booth in the main lobby of the Inn at the Commons and donations are accepted all year at Tom's Guitars, 1103 N. Riverside St., Medford.

For more information on donating an instrument, call Boruff at 541-864-4185, email or see

Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at