Elliot Mason and Marcus Printup, members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, gave musical tips and career advice to local students Wednesday at Reichhold Center For the Arts as part a master class organized by Dion Parson’s Mentoring through the Arts of Music Program.
Parson, a Grammy-winning drummer who was born on St. Thomas, founded the mentoring program in 2009 in partnership with VI Lottery to enhance music education in the territory.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis is one of the most acclaimed jazz ensembles in the country. Marsalis, its managing and artistic director and one of the most famous living jazz musicians, has said that the band tries to host education initiatives everywhere it tours, making it an ideal partner for Parson’s mentoring program.
At Wednesday’s workshop, students from St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix had an opportunity to ask questions of Mason and Printup, who play the trombone and the trumpet, about jazz harmony, performing, and careers in the music business. Both musicians stressed the importance of hard work, finding mentorship opportunities, and being true to oneself.
"Try not to put any kind of restraint on art," said Printup. "Get to know yourself. Be you and be happy being you."
Printup, who has a holiday named after him in his hometown of Conyers, Georgia, said his own music career started from humble beginnings. He told students that when he was a young man he used to keep his trumpet in a back room when he worked as a waiter at a Holiday Inn. When the employees sang "Happy Birthday" to customers, he would take out his horn. The satisfaction that he got from playing for people convinced him to further pursue a career in music.
After the question and answer session, Printup invited two members of the VI Youth Ensemble, a band of exceptionally talented VI high school students that has recently formed by Parson’s mentoring program, on stage to play with him.
"Find someone you truly look up to, even if it’s someone you’ve never met. Find a way to get in touch with them and just ask them questions. Seek out the help. It’s there. That’s what I did when I was younger," Printup told the students.