Jade Simmons performs “My Americana”

  • Wed Sep 17th, 2008 8:00am
  • Life

tChamber Music Festival brings

multi-faceted pianist back to Orcas

In spring 2007 the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival brought pianist Jade Simmons to the island as its first Musician-in-Residence for the In Music (IM) outreach program.

Simmons dazzled both the kids in the schools and the adults in her master class with her enthusiasm, proficiency, moxie and musicianship. She rehearsed all week with the Orcas Island music students and directed them in a performance at Orcas Center for the other school students at the end of the week.

This month, Simmons returns for a one-night only piano concert at the Orcas Center on Friday, Sept. 26. Her concert selections will include contemporary classics, with compositions by George Gershwin and Samuel Barber, as well as hip hop studies and a composition for piano with augmented sound, by Daniel Bernard Roumain and Russel Pinkston, respectively.

Simmons studied at Northwestern University in Chicago, where she co-founded the immensely popular percussion and dance ensemble Boomshaka! She was Miss Illinois and first runner-up at the 2000 Miss America Pageant, where she performed Chopin’s Etude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 10, No. 4, before a live television audience of millions. She holds a Master’s degree from Rice University, where she studied with Jon Kimura Parker.

Her endeavors include The Impulse Artist Series, which provides performance opportunities to young, up and coming pianists, the Emerge Already career seminar franchise and Zhedya Fashion, a unique line of woman’s performance wear designed with the musician’s needs in mind.

Simmons’ musical passion extends to teaching. The Chamber Music festival engaged Simmons as the debut Musician-in-Residence in the spring of 2007 as it expanded its community outreach beyond the summer concerts through IM: In Music program. This program includes performances and classes such as Musicans in Residence, Music Lovers’ Seminars, Master Classes, Children’s Concerts, and the ever-popular Pre- and Post-Concert Talks. Most recently IM has expanded through the Music for Young Ones, with a supporting grant from the Orcas Island Community Foundation.

Simmons’ chockablock week on Orcas Island last year was filled with demonstrations, master classes, and tutoring sessions for the island’s student musicians, teaching staff and community members.

Orcas students in Lizz Hanks’ high school band class remember her vividly. Last week, Seaborn Geiger said, “She was enthusiastic; it was a lot of fun learning how she kept the beat.” Joe Boucher said, “She opened the window to another form of music. We went further in looking at music by using our bodies in different ways, like we danced across the room.”

Hanks adds that Simmons also “taught the teachers” and changed how she approaches rhythm.

“She was so energetic, even the way she dressed was awesome,” said Chris Walsh.

Jamison Rose said that the culminating concert at Orcas center was “cool” and the class spoke up of solo performances and missed cues, all with big smiles on their faces.

The only problem with her week’s residency, says Victoria Parker, Executive Director of OICMF, was “There had been no time for Jade to perform!”

Now, with a fall concert schedule in Seattle, Simmons will be coming to Orcas Island to perform in concert. Her program “My Americana” will include: Three Preludes by George Gershwin, Etude Fantasy by John Corigliano, TaleSpin for piano and tape by Russell Pinkston, Hip-Hop Studies and Etudes for Solo Piano (selections) by Daniel Bernard Roumain, Piano Sonata, Op. 26 by Samuel Barber.

Jade’s concert performance is sponsored by Cindi and Rick Gould. The Sept. 26 performance is at the Orcas Center at 7:30 p.m. Festival Seating tickets are $20 or by donation; students will be admitted free, although a courtesy ticket is required. All tickets are available through the Festival Office, 376-6636.