Many musicians have performed for students at Smith Elementary School, on East 103rd Street, but none quite like the visitors who appeared Monday morning.
For they brought with them music of their homeland: Mali.
They came to Smith in the company of eminent flutist Nicole Mitchell, who years ago worked as a teaching artist there and at other Chicago Public Schools. Mitchell left Chicago in 2011 to teach at the University of California at Irvine, but she has returned to this city often and long has dreamed of collaborating with Malian counterparts.
Up next in our series of interviews with notable, in-the-know locals: Kate Dumbleton, executive and artistic director of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which starts Saturday.
A focal point of this year’s festival is Thelonious Monk’s centennial. How did you program that?
There’s a lot of centennials this year for jazz heroes: Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk. I decided to explore one of them in depth. Dee Alexander proposed a project called Monk and the Ladies, which is an all-women’s group playing Monk’s oeuvre, thinking about the vocal aspects of that. And I knew I wanted to bring in Robin Kelley—he’s written the definitive biography of Monk. I asked him to come give a talk about Monk at 100. In all, we’re doing four very different tacks on the work.