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Hazeltine spreads the gospel of jazz to eager students

Jazz pianist David Hazeltine (left) performed jazz standards with Maple Dale music instructor Jamie Breiwick for Maple Dale students.

Jazz pianist David Hazeltine (left) performed jazz standards with Maple Dale music instructor Jamie Breiwick for Maple Dale students. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Oct. 3, 2012

Fox Point - When pianist David Hazeltine paid a visit to Maple Dale School on Sept. 21, it meant the upbeat jingly timbre of an electric piano. The deep airy rhythm of a cello, plucked one note at a time. The crisp snap of wood on drums and the sighing of the cymbals, mingling with the tinny wail of the muted trumpet.

You know. All that jazz.

Hazeltine was born and raised in Milwaukee, where he played his first professional gig at 13. As time went on he played throughout the Midwest and eventually took his act to New York, where he forged a name for himself in the American and international jazz scenes.

While continuing to play, he has spread the gospel of jazz, so to speak, teaching at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and the Berklee College of Music in Boston, as well as co-founding The Jazz School here in Milwaukee.

Hazeltine says he became interested in jazz in a major way when he was in his early teens. By performing at Maple Dale before the group of young students he looked to kindle a similar interest in them, to replicate the spark that set his career in motion - a spark he still feels today.

"It's like an epiphany. This is why I do this! I love this!" says Hazeltine. "That's an amazing feeling to have every day, and would be an amazing feeling to cultivate in a seventh-grader - the joy of music."

It's a desire shared by Maple Dale-Indian Hill Band Director Jamie Breiwick, who makes it a priority to play jazz for his students. He says, with jazz notably absent from the daily rundown of pop songs, it's all he can do to make them aware of it.

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"I was very lucky to have a situation where I was exposed to the music and I was very much into jazz," says Breiwick. "As a teacher, to get them inspired is merely exposing them to it."

He did that in style, taking up his trumpet to the applause of his students and riffing alongside Hazeltine and the performing trio.

And although it's hard to tell from afar what an epiphany looks like, how it looks for that spark to ignite passion in a young student, there were surely a lot of tapping feet, drumming hands, and nodding heads keeping time as the music played.

"We want to convey that feeling of how we're enjoying ourselves," says Hazeltine, "We want to get that across to any audience, but especially a seventh-grader. How cool is that?"

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