MONMOUTH -- A soulful tradition returns to Monmouth next week.
Western Oregon University will host the annual Mel Brown Summer Jazz Workshop from Aug. 1-7. And as usual, the event means a number of free musical opportunities for residents throughout the week.
It all starts with a kickoff concert at Main Street Park at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 1, featuring the Mel Brown Septet and Portland-based Blue Cranes.
"They want everybody to know that little-old Monmouth hosts this fantastic workshop that draws kids from all over," said Andreya Nicholson, a spokeswoman for the event.
"It's important to reach out to the community, to let them know this is going on, and that Monmouth has great music that happens every year," said Nicholson, a WOU graduate student and vocalist.
Brown's musical career spans 40 years, includes stints as a Motown Music staff drummer, numerous records, and state and national awards.
A passion of Brown's is working with college and high school musicians and offering jazz workshops -- like this one he's run at Western since 1999.
The WOU camp covers subjects ranging from music theory to improvisation, and provides practical playing experience in large and small ensembles. A program for vocalists debuted in 2009.
"The MBJW is unique to Oregon," said Keller Coker, a WOU music professor and workshop instructor. "There are similar workshops in Washington and California, but there is no other workshop in the state that focuses on jazz and other American vernacular music styles ... such as blues and funk.
"Also, no other camp has Mel Brown," Coker added.
Participants work with some of the state's premiere musicians and teachers. Most of the 100 or so students attending from across the West Coast this year are between 15 and 19.
Nicholson grew up in Southern Oregon, but said her parents used to drive her to Seattle every summer to attend a music camp.
"The teachers there made me a better singer," she said. "A camp like this roots kids in the love of music that helps take them places."
All That Jazz
The Mel Brown Summer Jazz Workshop will feature its annual kickoff concert at Main Street Park on Sunday, Aug. 1. The event is free to community members. A beer and wine garden will be set up in the park, as well as food vendors, including Monmouth Main Street Pub & Eatery.
But that's not all.
Keller Coker, WOU professor, trombonist and a commissioned composer for stage and television, will perform with the American Metropole Orchestra at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3, in Rice Auditorium.
And workshop students will put their skills to use during concerts at Rice Auditorium, Smith Music Hall and other places on campus during the final day of camp on Saturday, Aug. 7.
Both the Aug. 3 and 7 events are free.
For more information: 503-838-8275.