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JazzU features St. Louis area middle and high school students

JazzU is a program of Jazz St. Louis that places talented middle and high school musicians in jazz combos. Applications for the 2015-2016 season are due May 1 and auditions will take place June 1-4.

This year, 53 students in the St. Louis area are part of the program and represent nearly four dozen schools. One participant of the JazzU program is Nathan Pence, a jazz bassist and senior at Bishop DuBourg High School.

“It’s really just inspiring to be in the program and that just pushed me forward,” Pence told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday.

Pence said he wasn’t familiar with jazz when he was a freshman in high school but he quickly became familiar with it, now having been part of the JazzU program for the last four years. Since then, he’s performed at Powell Hall, Jazz at the Bistro and recently wrapped up a tour with St. Louis musician Brian Owens in Japan.

“The JazzU program focuses on teaching jazz and improvisation in a small group setting,” said Phillip Dunlap, the director of education and community engagement at Jazz St. Louis. “There’s a certain maturity that it takes without someone telling you what to do.”

Pence said he’s learned discipline, leadership and communication skills from the program. “A lot of it is up to the students to do what they want with it,” he added.

Pence plans to study at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and then wants to study music in New York City.

More information about auditions is on Jazz St. Louis’ website.

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.