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Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center to open training academy at Va.’s Castleton Festival


Wynton Marsalis, seen performing with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra, will help run a two-week jazz academy for high school musicians at the Virginia estate of the late Lorin Maazel. (Movado Group, Inc./PRNewsFoto via Associated Press)

When conductor Lorin Maazel died last month, many people were already wondering whether the event he founded in 2009 on his Virginia estate, the Castleton Festival, could survive without him. Now, Castleton has announced that not only will the festival go on next year, but it will also expand — with the addition of a training academy administered by Jazz at Lincoln Center and Wynton Marsalis.

The Castleton Summer Jazz Academy will be a two-week program for 42 gifted high-school students from across the country. The inaugural season, from July 19 to Aug. 3 — immediately after Castleton’s regular season — will include classes, lessons, ensemble work and public performances in Castleton’s various venues around the ­Maazel property in Rappahannock County, although details have yet to be announced.

Planning for the new enterprise was underway well before Maazel’s death, in July, at age 84. Maazel and Marsalis made a video together this year talking about the project.

“When I heard that Wynton Marsalis was also trying to change the lives of young people,” Maazel says in the video, “I was thrilled — and that Wynton would want to collaborate with me and have a summer program in our facilities, starting in 2015.”

“At Jazz at Lincoln Center,” Marsalis says in the video (which is posted on the new academy’s Web site), “we believe in a holistic education . . . and we believe in a community-based education. At Castleton, a lot of the objectives are exactly the same as ours.”

The move furthers one of Marsalis’s objectives: the continuing institutionalization of jazz along classical-music lines. It also represents a logical extension of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s educational programs.

Like the Castleton Festival, the Castleton Summer Jazz Academy is not an entirely altruistic venture — there will be a tuition charge: $3,500 for the two weeks of room, board and instruction. Castleton has a similar training arm, the Castleton Artist Training Seminar (CATS), whose participants this year paid $3,000 for tuition. Nancy Gustafson, Castleton’s general manager, has long maintained that the tuition hardly covers the cost of what each student gets in terms of instruction and housing; furthermore, some participants attend on partial or full scholarships.

What “collaboration” will mean in practice between the two organizations is not yet clear, not least because neither program has released specific details of the 2015 schedule. The jazz academy has announced that it will begin accepting video applications Oct. 6. The program is open to students who want training in any of seven instruments, including trombone, piano and drums, but not voice. A curriculum outline promises “introduction to the communal history of jazz in a socio-political context,” “three ways of approaching harmony” and a range of performance workshops — a lot to pack into two weeks. Such details as the names of faculty are forthcoming.

Castleton has simply announced its dates: The 2015 festival will run from June 27 to July 19. Dietlinde Turban-Maazel, Lorin Maazel’s widow — she founded the festival with him and has been its official co-artistic director — is assuming the title of artistic director. The lineup is billed as “four weekends of operas, chamber music and orchestra performances, and young artist training programs such as CATS that have been the festival’s hallmark since 2009.”

In short: business as usual.

Part of the collaboration, of course, will involve a rental fee — income that Castleton needs badly. The Jazz at Lincoln Center announcement is a way for the festival to drop anchor in what must appear to be — despite protestations to the contrary — an uncertain future. Although Castleton has benefited from National Endowment for the Arts grants and growing support from its nascent board, the bulk of the festival had been supported by Maazel himself — to the amount of $10 million since 2009, according to a news statement.

The festival is attempting to raise $1.5 million by the end of December to cover next year’s costs. It also faces the challenge of identifying artists who will hold the same kind of draw for young musicians that Maazel did. Since the festival’s inception, Maazel said in interviews that he had his eye on rising conductors who would grow to a comparable stature — although the most recent festival showed that some of those candidates still have a way to go.

Still, Castleton has come to occupy a certain footprint in Rappahannock, one that is also due, in part, to its active outreach to young people in the region — something that Jazz at Lincoln Center will doubtless be eager to capi­tal­ize on. And the news that 2015 represents a new beginning, with a new partner, is the kind of message Castleton wants to present to its potential audiences — and donors.

“It’s not the Lorin Maazel Festival,” Maazel said in an interview in 2011. “No one is indispensable.”

His festival has sent out a clear signal of how much it hopes that is the case.

Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.
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