Article Commentary Editors’ Picks Interview Next Generation

JAN SERIES: Next Generation Perspectives

Article by Joshua Rivera and Jackson Harrison
Compiled and Edited by Christopher Burnett

Jazz Artistry Now poses two questions in our “Next Generation Perspectives” series to jazz artists who are current Fellows as well as Alumni of the Kansas City Area Youth Jazz program. We believe that it is important to hear from our youngest musicians.

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Youth Jazz Fellowships are awarded each season after rigorous auditions.

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Joshua Rivera (alto and tenor saxophonist)

Joshua Rivera (alto and tenor saxophonist): I am not too sure why but as a saxophone player, I really didn’t know I was playing jazz until I was told so by a man by the name of Christopher Burnett in high school. I would’ve never thought that I would be where I am now if he wouldn’t have given me a Dexter Gordon solos transcription book. Keep in mind, I’ve been around music in the church since I was little, playing behind gospel and R&B singers, but yet did not know that I was growing into becoming a jazz player. When I found jazz music, my life became much easier as a musician. I started to appreciate the music from listening to other jazz players. I didn’t really know in detail by detail what those players were doing with the changes, but the most important thing that I took from every player was how free they were. Free meaning, they could play whatever they felt deep down in their heart to play. Then I started to notice from my experiences of listening to music in church that the rhythm players in jazz would be right in sync behind the soloist and everyone was also having fun.

Jackson Harrison (tenor saxophonist)

Jackson Harrison (tenor saxophonist): Improvising! Improvising is one of the most liberating and creative things that human beings can do. I am doing that now with what I am typing, in a sense. For me, gaining the understanding of knowing when each person is taking an improvised solo is the gateway to really appreciating this music. It isn’t just a bunch of notes, it’s logical and spontaneous music creation.


Jackson Harrison (tenor saxophonist): Practicing jazz and improvisation helps me enjoy life better and I have learned to take more chances with creative decisions. It wasn’t until I got deeper into my jazz studies that I started really listening to the music. Listening to the music has been the most eye-opening thing that I have experienced so far in my creative life. I was a player before I was an avid listener and I sounded like someone who could play an instrument but couldn’t play jazz music. Playing and listening to jazz are purely the most meditative things I do.

Joshua Rivera (alto and tenor saxophonist): Jazz changed my life. I can’t say that I sound like Dexter Gordon but what I am saying is that I am following Dexter Gordon. I can’t say that I sound like Wayne Shorter but I can tell you that I am following Wayne Shorter. As growing up I will say that listening and transcribing has influenced me to hear what the player was thinking. As a college student now, I am able to not just take what the soloist is doing but I am able to take it and understand why they decided to play what they’ve played. From that I believe that’s what makes jazz fun for me, because I was able to make it my own thing from what I’ve been hearing from others. Then of course as I grow older, I become aware of leading much more comfortably with my own band much easier because we are all aware of just watching and having a ball with each other.  


Kansas City Area Youth Jazz is a nonprofit program of Burnett Music Foundation and meets weekly every Sunday between April-July in 90-minute professional coach led sessions at BRC Audio Productions – Kansas City, Kansas; and at the Paseo Academy in Kansas City, Missouri. The program currently offers four progressive jazz combos and enrolls 23 music students representing both high school and collegiate levels.

about the program

Programming begins as early as February with auditions, and post production work of releasing the recorded album projects on the ARC record label, as well as publishing student jazz journalism articles in Jazz Artistry Now runs through December.

Visit Kansas City Area Youth Jazz at