On April 11 and 12, Grammy-nominated composer, arranger and recording artist Curtis Lundy captivated the Blair community, performing with a jazz combo and holding a series of master classes for students in the School’s Jazz Ensemble, Orchestra and Singers. A renowned jazz bassist, Mr. Lundy began the two-day event with a concert at School Meeting during which he and a jazz combo, featuring Miles Lennox on piano, Wallace Roney Jr. on trumpet, Bobby Watson on alto saxophone and Victor Jones on drums, played a mix of familiar jazz and Motown hits that had feet tapping in DuBois Theatre. During a post-concert question-and-answer session, Mr. Lundy chatted with students, capturing the attention of hip-hop fans as he recounted his experience working with Kanye West and how the rapper sampled Mr. Lundy’s arrangement of “Walk with Me” for his Grammy Award-winning hit “Jesus Walks.”
The following day, Mr. Lundy hosted a series of master classes for Blair’s musicians, providing an opportunity for student learning that delighted performing arts chair and Director of Instrumental Music Jennifer Pagotto. “Anytime we have a guest performer, it’s a chance for all of our musicians to bring their skills and also be open to new ways of being led as a performer,” said Mrs. Pagotto.
At the workshops that he led for the Singers and Orchestra, Mr. Lundy taught Blair’s musicians a song, demonstrating how to riff on certain passages. Since Blair Singers and Orchestra students traditionally perform fixed compositions, Mrs. Pagotto noted, “This master class allowed those students to step out of their boxes and try learning by ear and improvisation.” For the students in Blair’s Jazz Ensemble, who are more practiced in spontaneous musicianship, Mrs. Pagotto observed, “They worked directly with the jazz combo, honing their skills and learning from very skilled professional musicians.”
Member of the Jazz band, student Laila Davson ’22, had high praise for the experience, describing Mr. Lundy’s workshop as intense. “Mr. Lundy pushed us to elevate our playing from simply notes on the page to what he and his ensemble demonstrated to us at School Meeting: Jazz music. We got to see classmates come out of their shells and improvise as well. It was awesome!”
Raised in Miami, Florida, Mr. Lundy hails from a musical family that includes his sister, acclaimed jazz vocalist Carmen Lundy. After studying at the University of Miami under the tutelage of bassist Dr. Lucas Drew, Mr. Lundy burst onto the New York jazz scene in 1978. Best known for his performances with jazz vocalist Betty Carter’s band, Mr. Lundy quickly gained notoriety playing rhythm on the albums of fellow jazz luminaries John Hicks, Bobby Watson, Steve Nelson and Johnny Griffin and is noted for his collaborations with musicians Art Blakey, Brandford Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis.
Mr. Lundy came to perform at Blair thanks to a fortuitous musical connection with Blair alum Darryl Jeffries ’73. His visit is part of the School’s Bartow Series, a program endowed with the mission to expand students’ artistic experiences by bringing professional performers from far and wide to the Blair stage. The series honors Nevett Bartow, a dedicated music teacher and talented composer who helped shape Blair’s music program. Mr. Bartow taught at Blair from 1961 until his death from leukemia in 1973 at the age of 39.