Russ Grazier & PMAC
Russ Grazier is a respected musician and educator, as well as being a co-founder and CEO of the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center (PMAC). In addition to his duties at PMAC, Russ Grazier has been appointed to the NH Arts Education Facility Reopening Work Group which is charged with making recommendations for the reopening of arts and education facilities to the Governor's Reopening Task Force. Russ, in his spare time, also serves on the Seacoast Jazz Society (SJS) Advisory Board. His SJS biography can be found here.
Few in the Seacoast jazz community were thrown into the pandemic reality more harshly than the jazz faculty of PMAC. Less than two hours before the first of their two sold-out PMAC Annual Jazz Night shows at The Music Hall Loft, the federal government declared a state of emergency. But wait, it gets worse. The scheduled program was a centennial celebration of the music of Charlie Parker, Dave Brubeck, and Clark Terry, and to top it all off, it was Friday the 13th.
The pandemic seemed to bring the rebel out in Russ. With at least 125 no-shows at the gig on the March 13th, he and the instructors realized that the show must go on. The PMAC faculty played a great show to about 25 appreciative and dedicated fans. You can hear it (and buy the download) on the PMAC Bandcamp site here.
PMAC's building may be closed, but they are still teaching full-speed ahead. As Russ put it:
All education is happening in a virtual online setting. Most students are continuing to work this way remotely, and the teachers have done a fabulous job adapting. The students, parents, and adult students have been reporting that the lessons are productive and the online resource keeps everyone playing.
Russ also noted that the concert and rehearsal aspect of teaching has "gone out the window." That, combined with everyone having to make the instant change to online classes, has resulted in a dramatic increase in the amount of time required to prepare for a teaching session, be it a one-on-one class or an ensemble.
There was a recent online Zoom event that the PMAC instructors had involving 50 musicians. The students prepared their individual pieces for ensemble performances ranging from trios to 19-piece bands. Those individuals then submitted videos of their work, and they were electronically woven and mixed into group performances. Considering all of the challenges they're facing, that is an incredible accomplishment. The students and the teachers are justifiably very proud of the work and the result. When that material is made public, we'll make it available through Seacoast Jazz Notes.
Russ commented that his workload has doubled since March 13th. That much of an increase, especially in times like these, has to be tremendously stressful. Such stress requires one to reach a quality-of-life balance. With the help of a musical street gang, Russ seems to have done so.
Russ is allegedly part of what appears to be a street gang of musicians that have been playing what he calls "in the truest sense, a flash mob performance." At random times, they'll show up in a neighborhood, set up, play a 15-or-so-minute spontaneous jam of unprepared tunes, pack up, and move on. They play at safe social distances and never telegraph the dates or locations. Because they do stop and get out of their cars, the gigs are not technically drive-bys, but you get the idea. Among the other suspects are Matt Langley, Bryan Killough, Jim Dozet, Jonny Peiffer, and the Klaxton brothers (Chris & Eric). Some evidence of their activity can be reviewed at the following links:
Exhibit A: May 8, 2020
Exhibit B: May 8, 2020
Exhibit C: May 8, 2020
Exhibit D: May 8, 2020
Exhibit E: May 22, 2020
Exhibit F: May 22, 2020
Exhibit G: May 22, 2020
The Seacoast Jazz Society would like to thank Russ Grazier and all of the PMAC staff and students for being such a big part of the Seacoast jazz scene that we all love. We can't wait to get back to being your live audience.