Through Jazz, Reaching Students

Members of Collaboration  --  from left, Glenn Douglas, Lori Williams-Chisholm, Kenneth Dickerson and Tracey Cutler  --  have been playing together for years. Music instills discipline, Dickerson said.
Members of Collaboration -- from left, Glenn Douglas, Lori Williams-Chisholm, Kenneth Dickerson and Tracey Cutler -- have been playing together for years. Music instills discipline, Dickerson said. (Marvin Joseph/twp - The Washington Post)
By Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2007

Collaboration is the name of the band. The music is jazz.

The group's history goes back 30 years, and the members share a passion for music and friendship. They moonlight as a band, and they work as teachers and school administrators in public schools in the Washington area.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tracey Cutler on saxophone. He teaches instrumental music at Hyattsville Middle School. Kenneth Dickerson, the assistant principal at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, on drums. Glenn Douglas, who teaches jazz at Wilson, on keyboards. On the bass guitar, Yusef Chisholm, the instrumental music teacher at Hardy Middle School. Vocals come courtesy of his wife, Lori Williams-Chisholm, who teaches at Wilson. And on guitars, Leland Edgecombe, a professor of architecture at the University of the District of Columbia and Prince George's Community College.

They have been collaborating for most of their lives.

Cutler and Dickerson have been best friends since elementary school. They went to junior and senior high together, and they both graduated from the University of the District of Columbia. They met Douglas in junior high, and they spent their spare time practicing music together.

"We did it as much because we were friends more than just to form a band," Cutler, 48, said.

They grew up in the District, in neighborhoods where drug dealers and crime ruled at night.

Worried that the streets would curse their futures, and motivated by their music teachers, they harmonized as a way to escape. Unlike many of their classmates, they retreated to the basements in their houses and played up a storm.

"Our streets were mean," Cutler said. "It was crazy. It was very easy to get caught in the streets."

A few years later, recognizing the positive impact of music on their lives, they decided to present their work to the public: Their collaboration morphed into Collaboration.

They were in high school when they gave their first public performance in 1977. Today, they have fans in several states.

In the early 1970s, when the band was still in the making, they played many genres of music. But it was jazz that stuck.


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