This past January, the NYU Steinhardt Jazz Orchestra traveled to Abu Dhabi, where, under the direction of Dave Schroeder, the orchestra performed at the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute’s inaugural academic conference. While in Abu Dhabi, the orchestra also spent a day teaching and performing for elementary and secondary school students at the American Community School.
I asked Dave Schroeder, director of NYU Jazz Studies, for his reflections on the experience. This is what he wrote:
“In January, the NYU Jazz Orchestra traveled to Abu Dhabi to perform for the NYU Steinhardt conference on NYUAD. Initially, the 17-piece big band directed by Rich Shemaria and featuring saxophonist Lenny Pickett was asked to perform for NYU conference attendees. In addition to these conference performances, we were able to organize an additional day of outreach that included performing for K through 12 students, master classes, private lesson instruction, and an evening performance that brought out and audience in excess of 800 attendees.
One of our main tasks while in Abu Dhabi was to discover what type of indigenous music exists within the region. What we found was that due to the multi-cultural population that defines the people living in Abu Dhabi, a wide variety of musical genres exist. The diversity of people we met were from the US and Western Europe to across the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Rim and Africa. On the surface, as in most global culture, Pop music is prevalent on the radio, in the malls and in the hotel lounges. But the dichotomy with Pop music was most obvious when the Islamic call to prayer was broadcast over loud speakers across the city five times each day.
When the NYU Jazz Orchestra performed for the locals, they were quite aware of Lenny Pickett and his affiliation to Saturday Night Live, whose reruns are broadcast on cable TV in Abu Dhabi. Needless to say, the audience had never heard anything LIVE as powerful as Lenny and his music played by an 18-piece big band. What a thrill and great honor to be able to affect this new audience with our music. By the end of the performance, the band had attained rock stars status by the audience.
In April, Combo Nuvo, the NYU Jazz Faculty-In Residence Ensemble, will be traveling back to Abu Dhabi to perform along side musicians from the region, and plans are in development for a performance with Combo Nuvo and the United Arab Emirates Philharmonic. Through this experience, we discovered first hand that music is a powerful language that has the ability to break down cultural walls. We were truly honored to promote good will toward others, discovering that we received as much as we gave.”—Dave Schroeder