Students to Participate in Costa Rica Jazz Festival

Three Eastern Kentucky University music students and their professor are going to jazz up Costa Rica this summer.

EKU students Zachary Hammond, senior music education major from Lexington; Isamu Haynes-Sunayama, senior music education major from Williamstown; and Joel Nelson, incoming freshman music industry/performing arts major from Lexington, will participate in the Promising Artists of the 21st Century program along with Dr. Larry Nelson, assistant professor of saxophone, jazz studies and musicology.

The four are part of a jazz saxophone quartet called Saxophobia. They will be in Costa Rica June 15-22 with the Promising Artists of the 21st Century program, which is part of a larger, yearly jazz festival. The quartet will teach master classes for Costa Rican music students and perform concerts for a variety of audiences. 

This is the first year the University has participated in the program, but Dr. Nelson hopes it will become an annual series. “Students will benefit from international performing experience and contact and interaction with foreign students and Costa Rican jazz audiences,” he said.

The group didn’t find out about the opportunity until mid-March and worked hard to put together an extensive tour program over the last two and a half months. Group members prepared 22 pieces ranging from jazz standards to more contemporary music for their concert set lists.

Hammond particularly likes a slower piece called “Autumn in New York.” “It’s a beautiful piece all around,” he said. “It’s very melodious and has a lot of harmonies. As a sax quartet, I think we really bring out those sounds in the piece.”

The students in the quartet were chosen for their excellence as musicians, particularly as jazz performers. “Opportunities such as this are usually unanticipated,” Dr. Nelson said. “It is important to be as proficient as possible on one’s instrument and be prepared to take advantage of such opportunities.”

He also recommends students take advantage of any opportunities they get to travel. “This kind of travel is very good for students. It’s a different kind of playing environment than we usually have and, in that sense, it’s good preparation for later professional life.”

The students are excited for the trip, too. Joel Nelson looks forward to traveling to Costa Rica for the first time, and Hammond wants to be immersed in the culture, seeing the cities and learning from the people.

Haynes-Sunayama is looking forward to something slightly different. “I have one big goal: to hold a sloth,” he said, referring to the slow-moving mammal native to Central and South American tropical rainforests

Published on June 09, 2015

Quick Links