July has been Krakow’s most jazzy month for many years now. Jazz concerts by world-famous musicians are nothing extraordinary in the city, but their intensity reaches a peak in July.
The Krakow International Summer Jazz Academy (ISJA) provides a musical feast frosted with fabulous stars, but also offers young artists a chance to learn and show off their talents. The Academy is conducted by a Polish and US team of experienced teachers and accomplished performers. This year marks the Academy’s 18th edition.
Why do these Americans keep coming back to Krakow for a two-week intensive commitment? The Krakow Post spoke to some of the Academy’s teachers:
Willem von Hombracht Bass player, Webster University of St. Louis
We do indeed have really long days and very little sleep. The teaching schedule starts at 9am, and continues until 5 or 6pm. Then the students’ jam session takes place from about 7pm until midnight, or later.
We do have Sunday off between the first and second week. Sometimes it’s actually a day of rest, but some years we have squeezed recording projects in between the classes, or I’ve volunteered to be a tour guide for the US students who come with us.
Even though I’m always extremely busy, it’s always a lot of fun. We all teach directly from practical experience. This is very important to me – jazz education cannot be only academic, it must also be very practical. We generally have very good students. This does not mean that they are all playing at a high level, but that they really listen and learn from what we present to them, no matter what their level is. I usually get a strong sense that the students truly appreciate the fact that we are there for them, if only for a short time. When players from different places come together, the resulting music is much richer.
Gary Wittner Guitar player, University of Southern Maine School of Music
Cross-cultural connections through mu- sic have been one of the most interesting things for me in my career. I have played on five continents with people from diverse cultures and it is always amazing to see how music connects people where language cannot. That is what keeps me coming back to ISJA.
Michael Parkinson Trumpet player, Director, School of Music at Middle Tennessee State University
I first came to Poland in March 1993 to present workshops in Krakow and Katowice thanks to an invitation from Isidore Rudnick, an American trombonist and composer who lived in Poland in the 1980s. From the beginning, the ISJA has promoted an equality and ease of communication between all faculty members and students. Through classes in theory and history, ensemble rehearsals, vocal and instrumental master classes, the nightly jam sessions, opportunities to hear great professional artists, and the concluding gala concerts, the ISJA continues to be a driving force and a testament to Isi’s original vision. I have followed the progress of many ISJA students who now have great careers and I am honoured to have played a part in helping them through the ISJA.
Having spent time with native Cracovians Janusz Muniak, Adam Makowicz, Jarek Śmietana, Joachim Mencel and others, I have breathed in the centuries of devotion to the highest levels of artistic creation and freedom of expression in Krakow and regard the city as my ‘distant home.’
For more information about the Krakow Summer Jazz Festival: jazz.krakow.pl