It wasn’t all that long ago when they were the students sitting in a classroom working on a dream, so the now 20-somethings tended to blend right in in the room of Central Washington University students Tuesday morning in room 150 at the music department.

Then all of a sudden a burst of creative genius would blow right in like a westerly trade wind and it became crystal clear as to who once stood on the same stage at Red Rocks Amphitheater where Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong touched the hearts and souls in 1959.

Yeah, school was in session. The CWU students, combining nervous with energy creative juices, sat ready to soak up the musical knowledge from The Westerlies, who picked up a thing or two under the mentorship of Wayne Horvitz at The Royal Room in Seattle a few years back.

“When you first walk in you’re not sure what to expect, but it’s pretty inspiring to hear and learn from professionals,” junior trombonist John Joy said. “I would say the biggest thing I learned today is to keep reaching, keep trying to find that creative element.”

The Seattle-born, New York-based, Westerlies have done workshops like this all over the country since forming in 2011. In fact, it was at The Westerlies Fest where they first met CWU saxophonist Shaina Ellis, whose band opened for them in their Ellensburg debut Monday night at the 420 Building.

“I’m from the Seattle area, so I had a chance to meet them last year,” Ellis said. “It means a lot to be able to work with them. They’re so generous with their time and willing to show ways to reach new creative heights.”

Andy Clausen and Riley Mulherkar are graduates of The Juilliard School. Willem de Koch earned his bachelor’s degree from Manhattan School of Music and Chloe Rowlands, born in Kirkland and raised in Phoenix, Ariz., attended the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and replaced original trumpeter Zubin Hensler just last year.

Their resume already reads like a who’s who of contemporary music, but it’s the eye contact, the connection, the giving something back that separates good from great and Tuesday was passing forward what was freely given to them.

“The younger kids are great. Five years ago we were like this,” said Mulherkar, who was named a “rising jazz artist” by Wynton Marsalis in JET magazine in 2011. “Wayne (Horvitz) was very generous to us and very supportive. We’re just here to help them get the most out of their talents.”

Clausen is a trombonist, composer, producer, and educator. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Clausen currently serves as Artistic Director for Jazz at New York Youth Symphony. The New York Times described his work as “sleek, dynamic large-group jazz.” It was impressive, and not just by the yardstick of their age.

“Our goal is to come here and help people find their own creativity,” said Clausen, whose compositions have been performed by The Seattle Collaborative Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony Jazz Band, The Juilliard Jazz Orchestra and the Seattle Chamber Players. “We do workshops like this all over the country and the thing that excites me is when you see them exploring different avenues of their own creativity.”

It was a day of learning, a day of sharing, a day when expanding creative boundaries was the goal and the laughter was music to the ears.

“The thing about Juilliard musicians is that sometimes they come off as being kind of snobby,” said David McLemore who studied with David Zerkel at the University of Georgia where he obtained a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in tuba performance. “These guys are from Seattle and they’re very down to earth.

“The thing about music is that there are so many styles and sounds, and you have to find your niche. I think things like this help with that.”


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