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Rio Americano students perform with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Not many students have the ability to meet a jazz legend, and even less have the opportunity to perform with one. Rio Americano High School’s AM jazz ensemble students received the experience of a lifetime on Sept. 11 when jazz great, Wynton Marsalis, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra spent the afternoon on campus mentoring students, followed by a special evening performance. 

“It’s been such an amazing experience for me, I grew up here in Carmichael watching the Rio jazz band as a kid and I was so inspired and wanted to be a part of it,” said 11th-grade student Paloma Cobbs Silva. “I learned clarinet and saxophone and I taught myself how to play jazz so I would be able to play here.” 

This event is the first time Jazz at Lincoln Center band has put on this kind of partnership with a single high school, giving the students something to look forward to after a year and a half of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Being able to experience teaching at such a high level with people that know jazz so intimately, it's such an experience, not only for the band as a whole but on an individual level as well,” said 12th-grade student Nate Heron.   

The AM ensemble spent the first half of the afternoon rehearsing as Jazz at Lincoln Center members were there to give feedback and direct, then parents and community members filled up Rio’s Performing Arts Center to watch the students that evening as they opened for the Jazz at Lincoln Center band.

At only a month into the school year, this experience will likely be hard to top, and many students have noted the lasting impression the Rio band has left on them. 

“One thing about jazz is the interconnectedness between the whole band and I really enjoy the environment that we’re able to bring together,” said Heron. “You’re not just playing for yourself, but you’re playing for each other and you’re playing for the audience, and that really allows us to create strong relationships between each member of the band.”

Rio Americano AM ensemble student pose for a picture

Jazz at Lincoln Center members instruct Rio musicians as they play instruments

A room full Rio musicians listens to Jazz at Lincoln Center band members speak

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performs on the Rio stage for a full crowd

Wynton Marsalis gives Rio band director Josh Murray a handshake as the AM ensemble claps