Classrooms: Jazz program expands to NHS thanks to donations from family of late student

  • Jazz musician Paul Arslanian listens as singer Lucia Dostal and other members of the Northampton High School jazz program rehearse, Monday, March 11, 2019 at the school. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jazz bassist George Kaye plays as Northampton High School student Ray Plante listens during a rehearsal for the school’s jazz program. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jazz musician Paul Arslanian listens as singer Lucia Dostal and pianist Ilan Bryant of the Northampton High School jazz program rehearse at the school. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Members of the Northampton High School jazz program rehearse as jazz bassist George Kaye sits in, background. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jazz drummer Jon Fisher talks with Northampton High School student Josie Stavely during a rehearsal for the Northampton High School jazz program. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/19/2019 10:04:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — With a couple of finger snaps, Northampton High School band teacher Paul Kinsman cued a dozen jazz musicians to start playing.

The students on saxophones, trombones, drums, a piano and xylophone started to play “Skylark,” while members of local professional jazz group the Green Street Trio — Paul Arslanian, George Kaye and Jon Fisher — circled about the room giving tips to the young musicians.

The March 11 workshop is part of the Elliot Ross Jazz in the Schools Program, an initiative named after a late former NHS student musician who died in November at the age of 21.

The program, which kicked off this month, aims to develop more jazz education at the school through several workshops with professional musicians each year. It’s an expansion of the Davis Financial Group Jazz in the Schools program at JFK Middle School run in part by Northampton Jazz Festival organizers.

The initiative at the high school is made possible by the Elliot Ross family, which requested that donations be made to the Jazz in the Schools program.

“An artist, Elliot created beautiful sounds, starting with the flute at age five,” his obituary in the Gazette reads. “He knew how to play to his audience, especially while busking in downtown Northampton.” It went on to say that later Ross learned to both the stand-up and electric bass.

“Elliot’s first love was jazz, but that branched off to include other styles like funk and rock,” Kinsman, who taught Ross when he was in high school, said in a release from the program’s organizers. “Everyone loves music, but not everyone finds their love of music through band or chorus. Elliot found that love by playing jazz with his bass, which is why carrying on his name through the Jazz in the Schools Program is so important. It means making music as inclusive as possible.”

Nearly $6,000 was raised through more than 50 donations in Ross’ name, and money will support jazz workshops with professional musicians for high school students, according to the Northampton Jazz Festival. The funding is expected to keep the program going for at least two years, according to Ruth Griggs, Northampton Jazz Festival president.

“We are profoundly touched by the outpouring of support that the Ross’ family and friends have provided to the Jazz in the Schools Program in Elliot’s memory,” she said in a release.

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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