The Waltrip Jazz Ensemble thanks the community for their donations during the concert | Community

A group of young jazz musicians from Waltrip High School are heading to Dallas for a performance this week thanks to a flood of donations from members of the local community and beyond.

Before the students left Houston, the community got to hear some of the plays they plan to perform at a prestigious national event.

On Monday evening, the 25-member jazz ensemble performed several of their selections which will be presented at the Jazz Education Network’s annual conference in Dallas, which takes place Wednesday through Saturday. And although the free concert at Waltrip was already scheduled before funds were raised, Waltrip Group Director Jesse Espinosa said it was also a way to show their supporters their gratitude for having helped raise the $ 20,000 needed for expenses such as a charter bus, meals and hotel stays.

“To continue this journey, it takes a lot of effort, dedication and the talent and hard work of the students,” Espinosa said Monday. “It’s just a lot to do to get to where we are today. But it certainly doesn’t come without the support of our community.

The band had tried to raise the necessary funds through such efforts as performances outside the Shipley Do-Nuts at 3410 Ella Blvd. on December 17th and at the Heights Theater on December 14th. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner made a pledge of $ 500, and Espinosa said the group also received support from State Senator John Whitmire.

But as of December 28, they were still around $ 8,000 of the $ 20,000 they needed. So, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, whose 18th Congressional District includes Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and the Heights, found a donor to provide the rest of the necessary funds. Jackson Lee was in attendance Monday, handing Espinosa and the group a check for $ 10,000 covering the remainder of their expenses.

“Jazz is an American art form,” said Jackson Lee, who co-chairs the US House of Representatives Jazz Caucus. “When I heard that they were going to be a part of (this conference), I couldn’t be more excited.… Watching them raise the necessary dollars, we knew we wanted to join. We recognize how important it is. is difficult to gather resources on a quick deadline, and I was delighted to be able to provide the support that has really done a lot for this community.The community is by your side, and that’s why we are making this donation tonight. “

Members of the 25-student jazz group, along with Espinosa and Waltrip principal Michael Niggli, expressed their gratitude to Jackson Lee and the community at large on Monday.

“I can’t explain how much this means to me, to the students and to the directors. Coming through like this is so unexpected, ”Niggli said. “No one really knew it was going to be like this, so my heart is pouring out so much to you.”

Being invited to play at the international conference is the latest in a long line of achievements for the historic hit group Waltrip. Among their highlights, he performed during the second presidential inauguration ceremony of former President Barack Obama.

This is the first time Espinosa has applied for the festival, he said, and Waltrip has been selected from hundreds of applicants from around the world to participate. The annual Jazz Education Network festival will bring together hundreds of speakers from institutions such as the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and Florida International University – giving the students of the Waltrip group a chance to rub shoulders with the who’s who of teaching in the world. jazz.

“We’ve done a lot of different things over the years,” Espinosa said. “Through these types of events, the rigor and excellence of this program has been greatly enhanced by the talent and hard work of these young people. We are very happy to have this opportunity.

Anything not used for travel expenses will be used to cover future trips, new equipment and other program needs, according to Espinosa. And there really wasn’t much else he thought he could say on Monday, so he kept it simple when addressing community members.

“Thanks to everyone there,” he said. “Thank you very much.”

Ada J. Kenney