Jazz ‘changed everything’ for visiting artist

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris charmed the crowd with his remarks last night. He will perform tonight with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra at the Bijou Theatre.

The lobby of the historic Arcade Building on Gay Street was the perfect setting last night for a reception honoring patrons of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra and welcoming guest artist Stefon Harris, who will perform with the KJO tonight.

With noshes provided by Bistro by the Tracks and stunning flower arrangements by Jazz Orchestra board chair Jan Bechtel, the atmosphere was convivial and celebratory as guests and jazz musicians mingled.

Vance Thompson, the leader of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, introduced Stefon Harris as “one of our most innovative educators in music.” Harris, the associate dean and director of jazz arts at the Manhattan School of Music, also teaches at universities all over the world.

In brief remarks, Harris said he taught himself how to read music and play the piano beginning at age 6 when his parents moved into an apartment that contained a piano with music books in the piano bench. And there was church. “My earliest experience of music was in the black church,” he said. “Our job was to amplify the voice of the people.”

Harris said he developed a passion for music education and started out intent on a career in classical music, but things changed once he got to the prestigious Eastman School of Music. “I heard Charlie Parker — and that was a problem,” he chuckled. “It changed everything. I’ve never experienced an art form so intellectually engaging as jazz.”

Harris said jazz also changed him as a person. “As a man, I learned through jazz how to treat other human beings,” he said. “In jazz, you learn to listen to other people. I’m incredibly grateful to this art form.”

Harris and the Jazz Orchestra will perform tonight at the Bijou Theatre at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.

From left, Keith Brown, KJO leader Vance Thompson, Elizabeth MacTavish, Tommy Sauter, Chris MacTavish and Mischa Goldman.

Kevin and Melinda Grimac own the Arcade Building, 618 S. Gay Street, built in 1924 as the home of The Knoxville Journal and operated today as office suites.

All the food was delicious, but the hands down hits of the party were the fried pimento cheese balls! Just get your mind around that concept for a minute!

From left, William Boyd, Barbara Crist and Mark Boling.

I loved the flowers that Jan Bechtel arranged.

Chris Hill with Megan Venable from VIP Knoxville magazine.

Alan Carmichael and Sara Rose.

Vance Thompson’s wife and daughters. From left, Emily Thompson, Maria Thompson and Sophia Thompson.

From left, Brad McDougall, Emily Mathis and Janice Cole.

There was no pinot grigio, unfortunately, but this white blend was a pretty good substitute. And I loved the pretty label.

Stefon Harris, left, and Keith Brown.

Teresa Holland Lundberg, left, with Tom and Evelyn Shaw.

Newlyweds Bill and Laura Pippin.

Jan Bechtel, Don Hough and Chris Hill, at right.

Alan Carmichael, left, with Vance Thompson.

From left, Tom Lundberg, his mother, Barbara Weidner Lundberg, his wife, Teresa Holland Lundberg and Bill Rukeyser.

The lobby runs the length of the building and faces a courtyard on the side opposite Gay Street. Very cool space.

The Arcade Building. (Photo by Alan Carmichael.)


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5 Responses to Jazz ‘changed everything’ for visiting artist

  1. Ellen, on April 3rd, 2018 at 10:43 am said:

    Sorry to have missed the party — will be there tonight. He is brilliant. Can’t wait!

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on April 3rd, 2018 at 10:44 am said:

    Ellen: He is super charming. I think tonight will be awesome!

  3. Sara Rose, on April 3rd, 2018 at 10:56 am said:

    Very nice party! Looking forward to Stephon’s performance tonight!

  4. Thomas Tedford, on April 3rd, 2018 at 4:09 pm said:

    The pimento cheese balls look amazing!

  5. Jan Bechtel, on April 4th, 2018 at 12:25 pm said:

    Great party, awesome concert and terrific article! Thank you, Cynthia and Alan!

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