Wednesday, April 21

Nonprofit still jazzed about scholarships, music study | Music

The Bakersfield Jazz Workshop might not be meeting in person at the moment, but that doesn’t mean the organization been inactive.

Adapting to the pandemic, the BJW is working to move online (there are currently no plans to revive in-person jazz workshops, usually held Tuesdays at Temblor Brewing Co.) as well as moving forward with one of its primary directives: providing support for the continuing education in the study of jazz music.

Since 2007, the BJW has awarded scholarships to local musicians looking to further their musical training. Applications became available Tuesday on BJW’s website (under the Announcements or Bakersfield Jazz Workshop Annual Scholarship/Award Program tabs).

“Applicants should submit a really good bio highlighting their accomplishments and true passion and dedication for jazz education,” said workshop CEO and founder Steve Eisen.

He also suggests that applicants should “have a letter of recommendation and an idea, if awarded the scholarship, where they would want to continue their education, including private lessons or a music school.”

Within the available scholarships, there are two special awards given: The Kerry B. Pierce Award, for high school or college students wanting to pursue a career in music, and the Larry Totten Memorial that is, according to the BJW webpage, “open to all youth exemplifying musical passion and professionalism.”

However, scholarships are open for prospective musicians of all ages from Bakersfield and its surrounding areas. Previous recipients include saxophonist Isaiah Morfin, trumpeter and educator Brent Williams, guitarist John Butler, drummer Daniel Lopez and last year’s 11 recipients include Kerry B Pierce Award recipient Izzy Foster, Larry Totten Memorial winner Marina Martinez, Angel Ramos, Isaac Bolaños, Jared White, Nathan Chin, Chris Craddock James Brady, Gavin Hua, Abigail Wilson and Tony Stone.

“We typically give out anywhere from eight to 12 scholarships annually,” Eisen said. “We take into consideration the number of applicants we feel are qualified.”

Applications should be submitted by Sept. 8, and can be emailed as a PDF attachment to or mailed to the address listed on the application.

On Sept. 15, applications will be reviewed by the eight-member BJW board, which will choose scholarship recipients. The nonprofit will host an online presentation event on Sept. 22.

“We’re actually very fortunate that a few of our board members have the know-how to do that,” Eisen said.

So in an era where musicians are barely able to play live with each other, why should musicians get excited about pursuing music as a course of study? Eisen believes that this epidemic too shall pass. You can’t fight a musician’s natural compelling need to make music. Plus, musicians can make the best of staying indoors by practicing social distancing as well as their instruments.

“We teach everybody that we have to make lemonade out of a lemon situation,” Eisen said. “This is all temporary. You need to come out of this a stronger person and a better musician.”

Right now, music remains one of the last bastions of self-preservation and solace for a populace that is in desperate need of a reprieve.

Whether coaxing an unintended musical mistake into a genuine artistic statement or maneuvering through a chaotic, uncertain and unstable social landscape, many musicians are focused on improvisation, perspective and doing the best with what you got.

All three of those elements are needed in jazz. So with that knowledge, a jazz musician is always creating — both on and off the bandstand.

Eisen said, “What’s keeping us inspired is the support and energy we’re getting through our local music community — especially in sharing music online and keeping each other motivated. We’re a local happy family here. I look at it like that. Everybody seems to support everybody here.”

Contributing columnist Cesareo Garasa covers local music and entertainment.

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