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VI Youth Ensemble Takes 'The Big Apple' By Storm!

Members of the VI Youth Ensemble, including Keshawn Hardy, trumpet, Educational Complex High School; Sherwin Williams, saxophone, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School; Tariq Lionel, piano, Central High School; Uriel Rogers, bass, Charlotte Amalie High School; and Eljhaie Brathwaite, IEKHS, pose with Dion Parson's wife, Nicole and their son. The group travelled to New York City on June 8 to participate in Jazz at Lincoln Center events through June 12.

It's been nothing short of a whirlwind week for select members of the standout VI Youth Ensemble who are touring the New York City jazz scene with GRAMMY award-winning drummer, Dion Parson, the group's leader and mentor.

The delegation--consisting of students from St. Croix and St. Thomas along with members and supporters of the United Jazz Foundation, Mr. Parson's non-profit organization that runs the Mentoring through the Arts of Music program in Virgin Islands public schools--arrived in NYC on June 8 to kick off five days of fun, performance and learning. The group is in the city to attend Jazz at Lincoln Center events at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, where Parson and his 21st Century Band will perform sold-out shows on June 10, 11 and 12.

The five VI Youth Ensemble members invited on the trip included Keshawn Hardy, trumpet, Educational Complex High School in St. Croix; Sherwin Williams, saxophone, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School in St. Thomas; Tariq Lionel, piano, Central High School in St. Croix; Uriel Rogers, bass, Charlotte Amalie High School in St. Thomas; and Eljhaie Brathwaite, CAHS on St. Thomas. The students were a part of a special birthday surprise for Mr. Parson, whose birthday was celebrated on June 8.  The group rehearsed music before travelling to NYC in order to surprise Mr. Parson with a special performance.

On Thursday, June 9, the group visited the Louis Armstrong House in Queens with renowned trumpter, Jon Faddis. Tabari Lake, bassist and Kai Richardson, trumpeter, both alumni of the VI Youth Ensemble, were asked by Mr. Faddis to come on stage and play a few tunes with the band. Through a personal connection with the new director of the Louis Armstrong House, the group was provided discounted tickets, tours, food and beverages. That evening, VI Youth Ensemble members participated in two unforgettable jam sessions in the heart of Harlem with some of the city's finest jazz musicians. The first event took place at Safire and was directed by Patience Higgins. The second jam session brought the group to Ginny's Supper Club ( Red Rooster) and was directed by Marc Carry, a longtime friend of Mr. Parson. 

On Friday, June 10 at 6 a.m., the group and other members of the Parson delegation was featured on Addie Ottley's morning show on WSTA 1340, which is broadcasting live from NYC for the week's activities.  That same day, the students received private lessons on their instruments with two musicians, enjoyed a tour at Jazz at Lincoln Center, sound check at the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, and a chance to hang out with the orchestra backstage. They finished the night at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola with Dion Parson & 21st Century Band.

On Satuday, June 11, the legendary bassist Ron Carter will meet with students for one-on-one mentoring. Later that day, at 6 p.m., Dion Parson & 21st Century Band will perform a musical birthday tribute to Mr. Parson. Local viewing parties will be held at BCB Middle School, the St. John School of the Arts, and Pearl B. Larsen Elementary School. The show will also be live streamed at and air locally on WSTA 1340 AM.

Sunday, June 12 brings another exciting day for the students. They will participate in a memorial concert hosted by famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in memory of saxophonist and founding member of the renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Joe Temperley. Mr. Temperley passed away on May 11, 2016 in NYC at the age of 86. That same day, the group will also perform at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church.

Tabari Lake and Kai Richardson served as the group's chaperones.

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