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Year Two in the Books

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

By Amanda Ekery

El Paso Jazz Girls 2019 just wrapped up and I’ve been recalling all of the wonderful ideas, collaborations, relationships, and music that was made. We had participants from all over El Paso, hosted a pilot program in Austin, had instruments ranging from French horn to flute to cello to everything in between, and showcased everyone at a final concert. Here are some highlights:

Listening Sessions

Any musician will tell you that it is imperative to listen and open your ears to all kinds of music. This year at El Paso Jazz Girls was no different. Teaching artists shared music from the traditional swing era, John Coltrane, and classic big bands, but also included avant-garde improvised music, “new music” and what the heck that means, vegetable percussion groups, and Hermeto Pascoal’s underwater whimsical flute videos. Here are a few artists that we shared that you can continue to check out –

Special Topics

This year, we decided to include daily special topics and each teaching artist presented such diverse and helpful topics. Grace Ward led a recomposition special topic where she talked about taking songs and changing them in ways that fit your personal style – this really helped when our ensemble was making arrangements of pieces. Amy Smith led a unique special topic about her passion for music therapy and paired it with an exploration of swing rhythms. Sophia Johnson schooled us in gypsy jazz, Django Reinhardt, and taught us “Minor Blues” – super fun and I learned something new! Candice Reyes covered the music business and importance of sharing your work, while Joyce Hsu got us moving with a class on yoga, wellness, Alexander Technique, and health as a musician. Lastly, I gave a special topic on composing melodies and creating lines using restrictions.

Final Shares at Ardovino’s and HEB

Last year, we got feedback that participants wanted a concert. So we gave them one this year and it was stellar! Really.

In El Paso our 3 combos played to a packed patio at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing. Each group showcased their style and played varied material ranging from The Beatles, to Count Basie, to original music!

In Austin, we played an afternoon show at Table 620 in Lakeway which featured an original blues, Carla Bley, and gypsy jazz. Playing music together at the end of each program was a great way to cap our time together - having fun, showing off what each group created, and listening to each other.

Continued Collaborations

One of the best things that happened this year was building relationships with others and making plans to continue supporting and working with each other.

In Austin, I made connections with local teaching artists Sarah Milligan and Sophia Johnson and we are getting together to think through ways that we can expand our partnership next year. Grace Ward (El Paso and Austin teaching artist) has also lined up some gigs with Sarah to play in Austin later this summer!

In El Paso, one of our combo groups has started their own band! They are called The Connections, have their own Instagram (@the_connections_ep), and already have a gig planned for the 4th of July! I love how they have taken ownership of their music and are making moves to continue playing together and supporting each other in El Paso.

Lastly, online we have tons of resources and blog posts like this one at to keep the conversations and learning alive throughout the year. If you have any ideas for a blog post, let us know! If you have any questions, concerns, or want to see something specific on our resource page, let us know! Our goal is to serve as an ongoing resource, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

I hope this year was equally as fulfilling for participants and teaching artists. To me this truly is a special program where we can explore, experiment, and play together, and continue to create opportunities and avenues to support each other year-round! Time to start planning for 2020!

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