DAYTON — The local jazz collective known as SYM (Serious Young Musicians) will celebrate the sixth anniversary of its beginnings with a performanceby a new crew of fresh-faced instrumentalists, today at Gilly’s downtown.
A second generation of school-aged performers will take the stage this afternoon after months of preparation with project founder and leader Tumust.
Allison, a local music teacher and veteran musician. “They’re babies, really,” Allison said of the newcomers who range is age from 8-12. “But they’re ready.”
Fourteen-year-old Chris McMahon is the only carryover from the original ensemble, all of whom are in high school now. Followers of the group may remember Chris’ trumpet playing for his Dizzy Gillespie-like, puffed-cheek blowing style.
But for this new incarnation, Chris has traded in his horn for a seat behind the drum kit, where with Allison on keyboards, he helps anchor the fledgling musicians.
The newbies got a taste of public performance Thursday evening as theopening act at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering for the British funky fusion jazz group Down to the Bone and the night’s headliner, the Rev. Al Green. “All of the Down to the Bone musicians sat in the audience and watched the SYM kids in awe,” reported the Fraze’s Susan Montesano.
The Down to the Bone guys “also let (SYM) sound-check with them. The sax player would play a riff and the SYM kids would copy it.” During Thursday night’s intermission, Clarence Slaughter, 12, tenor and “alto sax; Tyrone Martin, 9, alto sax; and Craig Hill, 12, tenor sax, fanned out through the Fraze crowd passing out ﬂiers for today’s Gilly’s gig.
Delighted audience members shook their hands, patted their backs and offered words of support.Asked how it had felt to be on the Fraze stage in front of all those people”,
Craig Hill smiled shyly: “It felt good.” “You could kind of call this our debut week,” Allison said about the introductory performances.
But Thursday was just a taste of what the youngsters can do, he added. “They know over 25 songs from memory.”
When he started working with the second generation of players this past year,‘ Allison didn’t expect to have them performing in public this soon. “I didn’t really think I would be bringing them out for another year or two,” he said. “But between December and January, there was a change of guard.”
As high school activities and interests claimed more and more of the original members’ time and attention, Allison started spending more energy on the younger set. “I had these babies just sitting on the couch,” and they were itching to play. “One thing about the little kids, they’re always available for practice,” he said.
And if there is one standard for SYM, it’s: practice, practice, practice. And then practice some more. Allison is unwavering on that point.
There are a lot of talented people in the world, he tells his young charges, but those who succeed are the ones who “always rehearse, always practice, alway go beyond the extra mile.” He also tells them that this approach isn’t limited to music, but applies to just about anything they may want to do in life. So, he has the group practicing after school during the week, including Fridays, and all day on Saturdays.
And music isn’t the only thing the students are learning. “I teach them character, respect, dignity,” Allison said. “You’ve got to leam respect for other people.” He won’t allow anyone to make fun of another. “I tell them,‘You would have never had a chance if I had laughed at you.”
Allison said he doesn’t want to limit SYM to the handful on board, which also includes 8-year-old Kenyatta Vaughn. Kenyatta plays percussion but didn’t perform at Fraze Thursday.
“I am looking for more, and will be adding more kids along the way,” he said, adding that in January he formed SYM Inc. and is in the process of trying to get nonproﬁt status for the group. “This second generation is going to be something else, I do believe,” he said, “(But) it’s too good of a thing to share just among (these ﬁve) kids.”