Beating the heat with cool tunes
“Beautiful!” shouts Doug Norwine as he listens to a teenage guitarist playing a solo part. He walks across the stage, moving to the rhythm as he listens to the instrumental blend filling the auditorium with “feel good” sounds of jazz. Norwine is one of several jazz clinicians who come to Southern Wesleyan University’s campus in Central every summer to share their skills and “jam” with camp participants – mostly middle and high school students. Also there to sharpen their skills were a few older musicians.
Norwine’s saxophone riffs have been heard on popular TV shows that include “The Simpsons,” “Seinfeld” and “Roseanne.” He has performed and toured with Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler, Tony Bennett and Harry Connick Jr. “It’s a great feeling to see these students come in here, just hungry to suck up knowledge like a sponge and then apply it,” said Norwine, who currently teaches music at Anderson University. He maintains that having a jazz camp of this caliber in South Carolina is perfectly logical.
“South Carolina is a rich, fertile ground of music,” Norwine said,
pointing out native born jazz legends that include Dizzy Gillespie,
Thelonious Monk and Nina Simone. A couple of floors below the auditorium, Kelley Norwine, his wife, works with a young vocalist as she takes on Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow.” Kelley, a 1990 graduate and former employee of Southern Wesleyan, also works at Anderson University and performs regularly with her husband in gigs across the region.
Stockton Helbing, a drummer who continues to perform with Tonight Show legend Doc Severinsen, returned for his fourth year of teaching at the camp. A Florence, S.C., native now based in Texas, Helbing enjoys returning to his home state and sharing what he’s learned. Many camp participants are unfamiliar with jazz, but Helbing enjoys seeing young musicians catch his enthusiasm. “Jazz is one of our true original American art forms. I want these young people to embrace it to keep it from disappearing, but also for them to understand the beautiful challenge jazz provides them and the possibility of creating music all of the time,” said Helbing, who also teaches at the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“You don’t have to the best technical player of all time – it’s an opportunity to be creative,” said Greg Day, professor of music at Southern Wesleyan and organizer of the camp, which is now in its 12th year. “Jazz in itself is very friendly and relaxed.” Day adds that those participating in the camp get to work with people who actually make a living making jazz – sort of an equivalent to learning from a professional athlete.
This year’s camp had its first violinist. Mabel Kitchens, a student at McCant’s Middle School in nearby Anderson, S.C., learned violin in school but decided to explore the possibilities of playing the blues. “It’s always been classical music, so it was good to kind of change that up a little bit,”