by Megan Hussey
The Hernando Jazz Society, as per its mission, "is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, performing, and perpetuating all forms of jazz including swing and music from the Great American Songbook." And in order to preserve and perpetuate this classical musical artform, the society is offering a helping hand to young musicians who long to continue the tradition.
Under the auspices of its annual Scholarship and Music Assistance program, the society awards multiple scholarships to music students in grades 9 - 12 who reside in Hernando County. The student can apply these funds, which can run an average of $1,000 for a first place grant and $750 for a second place grant (with the exact amount depending on the number of grants awarded), in any number of ways.
They can use the funds to pay for private instrumental or group voice lessons, to buy an instrument, or to help cover the cost of a collegiate course in music education.
"We ask only that the money go toward music education," said Eddie Lawrence, President of the Hernando Jazz Society. "We have so much talent in this county, and we want to help these kids get into the music field."
Scholarship Director Jean Spaulding agrees.
"We don't restrict their use of the grant," she said. "We want them to use the grant to develop their musical skills and endeavors."
Lawrence estimates that, since the inception of the scholarship program in 1996, the society has awarded more than $30,000 in scholarship funds. And during that time, administrators have broadened the spectrum of students served through this program.
"Originally we awarded the scholarships to those studying music in college," said Lawrence, who incorporated the Hernando Jazz Society in 1995. "Now we also give to talented students in middle school and high school, or that are homeschooled."
In order to earn a Hernando Jazz Society scholarship, students must submit a completed application form along with a letter of reference from a school music teacher, guidance counselor, or a private music teacher, and a CD recording for the purposes of pre-audition screening. Recordings can be submitted in the MP3 or WAV file format.
"They can sing or play an instrument of any kind," said Lawrence. "We've heard saxophones, trumpets, pianos, all kinds."
Finalists will be invited to perform in a live audition session on a Sunday in March, with the date, location and schedule to be provided. The deadline for applications is Sunday, March 15; all recordings and applications should be mailed to Hernando Jazz Society, PO Box 3757, Spring Hill, FL 34611. Finalists must bring three copies of the sheet music and perform a solo with accompaniment. Accompaniment can be live or recorded.
"Extra credit will be awarded for performances of Jazz music," read contest guidelines.
Family and friends may attend scholarship auditions, however, all questions posed by society adjudicators to the applicant must be answered by the applicant only.
"We want to know their musical knowledge and see their presentation," said Lawrence.
Scholarship winners are expected to perform live at the last Hernando Jazz Society's session of the 2019-2020 season, Sunday, May 3.
Perhaps fittingly, the nonprofit society donates earnings from its memberships and its own concerts to fund its scholarship program.
The society performs 2-5 p.m. the 2nd Sunday of each month September through April, and the 1st Sunday in May, at The Wellington Club House, 400 Wexford Blvd., Spring Hill, off Mariner Blvd., two traffic lights north of County Line Road. All seating, except for that held for Patron members, is first come, first served. Admission for members is free, for non-members, singles $10 and couples $15. Season tickets for nine (9) performances are $50 for individuals and $100 for couples.
The society next will perform March 8 for their monthly concert, and also will perform at the Hernando County Fine Arts Council's 36th Annual Art in the Park, 3:30 p.m. March 15, at Tom Varn Park in Brooksville.
Hernando Jazz Society scholarship winners have gone on to become professional performers, as well as band directors and music educators at schools. And regardless of their eventual career path, program administrators have one hope for winners.
"We want them to embrace the love of music," said Spaulding.
For more information about the Hernando Jazz Society scholarship, call Jean Spaulding at 352-650-9101 or [email protected]