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Intimate concerts, innovative education

Happy JAM to one and all. April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and I’ve wanted to share about the Siskiyou Music Project since attending one of its sublime offerings last year. Now is the perfect time to spread the news of this nonprofit music promoter because its fresh spring line is fixing to bloom.

On that memorable night at Artistic Piano in Medford, we joined ranks with a small but earnest audience. We all experienced a unique evening with Eugene-based jazz singer Halie Loren paired with L.A.’s New West Guitar Group, including the strumming talents of Jeff Stein, John Storie and Perry Smith.

We sat up close and personal with the performers, but no one wanted ear plugs. The sound was perfect. The evening was laid-back and oh, so pleasant. At intermission, we felt like we were part of a relaxed social club with friends.

Intimate concerts — innovative education. This is the credo of the Siskiyou Music Project, formerly the Siskiyou Institute. It began 15 years ago to introduce world-class touring musicians to our area, helping to share diverse cultures and inform fans with a variety of sounds and jazz styles. SMP presents 15 to 20 performances each year using several different venues around Southern Oregon.

The six-concert spring series begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 21, with the Hristo Vitchev Chamber Jazz Trio dishing out a combo of classical and avant-garde sounds within the walls of the Old Siskiyou Barn in Ashland. Based in the Bay Area, this talented trio is composed of Bulgaria-born Vitchev, pianist Weber Iago (a Latin Grammy nominee), and saxophonist Dann Zinn, who has played with Joe Henderson, Freddy Hubbard, Russ Ferante and a long list of other notables.

It takes several dedicated individuals to run the Siskiyou Music Project, but the main pulse point is Southern Oregon University guitar instructor and Artistic Director Ed Dunsavage. The SMP is all about great entertainment, but it also plays an educational role. Ed and I messaged recently and he said, “A mission of the organization has been to bring these world-class touring artists into local schools to expose students to great live music.”

With more school music programs falling under the misnomer of extracurricular, it’s important for organizations such as SMP to receive funding to help provide the full spectrum of our children’s education, of which music and the arts are vital components.

Future concerts will feature artists from Brazil, Argentina, New York and L.A. As a slam-bang finish, Pearl Django out of Seattle will swing hot gypsy jazz June 10 at Paschal Winery in Talent.

A season ticket for six concerts costs $150. Individual concert tickets are $25 or less, and if you become a member, there are perks depending on the level of sponsorship chosen. For all the goods, see www.siskiyoumusicproject.com.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer in Eagle Point. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.