Conway bassist selected for YoungArts festival
CONWAY, Mass.—Jazz runs in the Jaffe family genes.
Martin Jaffe, 17, of Conway emerged from a pool of 5,000 candidates nationwide to be one of 151 selected for YoungArts Week in Miami in January.
Jaffe, a senior at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, has been playing stand-up acoustic bass since he was 5 years old.
He said that, fortunately for him, acoustic basses come in a variety of sizes, allowing people of varying statures (including 5 year-olds) to learn and play the instrument.
Over the years, he said he has also taught himself some piano, but the bass is his instrument of choice.
Jaffe's two older siblings and his parents are also accomplished musicians. His sister Ceora lives in Boston and is a graduate of Cleveland Institute of Music and has played with the Boston Pops and the Albany Symphony, and his brother Lysander is at Durham University in England playing violin and viola in the orchestras there and studying Russian, ethnomusicology and history.
His father, Andy Jaffe, is the director of the Williams College jazz program, and his mother is a singer, Martin Jaffe said.
With all of that musical experience in one house, Jaffe said that it was only natural that he would be inclined to pick up an instrument at some point.
He said he never felt forced into music, but was drawn through curiosity when seeing his older siblings playing.
"It was like, Hey, when do I get to do that?" he said.
He said he is most excited to work with and learn from some of the best musicians and instructors in the country when he gets to Miami for a week.
Jaffe said that he felt that working with people at the top of their game, in any endeavor, improves everyone's performance.
To be considered for the YoungArts program, Jaffe submitted recordings of three songs: "Straight, No Chaser" by Thelonius Monk, "Peace" by Horace Silver, and "Minority" by Gigi Gryce.
The students attending YoungArts week were selected in a blind judging from a pool representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as all U.S. territories. The screening process will continue during YoungArts week to determine further awards levels. Monetary awards ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 will be presented to students exhibiting excellence in their discipline.
During the week, the 2012 Presidential Scholars in the Arts will be chosen from among the YoungArts finalists. These scholars will be given awards at the White House, and given the opportunity to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
YoungArts is the core program of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.
The organization's mission is to identify emerging artists, provide educational enrichment and assistance in their pursuit of the arts, and to raise the appreciation for and support of the arts in American society. The YoungArts program has honored over 16,000 young artists with more than $6 million in monetary awards and nearly $84 million in college scholarship opportunities. Alumni have gone on to become leading professionals in their fields, such as Vanessa Williams, Nicki Manaj, and Chris Young.