Speaking to various students at the 2013 Fondazione Siena Jazz Summer Workshop revealed a remarkable cross-section of aspiring artists who were connected by a common desire to raise their game through study, the chance to play with members of its world-class faculty and to network with a group of 110 like-minded musicians. 16 year-old drummer Marcello Cardillo was attending the Workshop for his first time. "A friend of mine in Naples told me about the Academy," Cardillo says. "I've been studying with Roberto Gatto and Claudio Fasoli. [At home] I study music in the conservatory and with two private teachers. I've been playing jazz since I was six years old, because my father listened to jazz. I'm hoping to learn something [laughs] and meet other people from other places. That's the first thing, in fact: I want to meet people from other places and to play with these other people. "
Tilman Oberbeck, from Hamburg, Germany, found his way to Siena in a completely different way. "I finished school with a friend who plays saxophone, and we started a band, together with a drummer and pianist," the 21 year-old bassist explains. "We started to jam and to play and we were thinking in the same direction; we wanted to play music that was more energetic, like Kenny Garrett
's group and Branford Marsalis
' quartet. We were having a lot of fun and we wrote some songs. After three months, there was competition called Future Sound in Leverkusen, at the Jazz Days Festival, for musicians under 35. We didn't think they would call us when we sent them our stuff; I think there were something like 153 bands that had sent in records for this prize and they called six. Each band had to play on one of the festival days and there was a jury that selected two of the bands for the finals on the last day of the festival. Each of those bands had to play a 10-minute concert and the audience had to decide which one they liked more. And we won. It was our first concert ever; we hadn't even played before. We just practiced in a room and worked hard. We just wanted to play.
"It was amazing. The prize was a bit of money (1,000 Euros); not that important. But the real prize was to get a main stage gig this year at the festival in November. So at this year's Leverkusen Festival we will be able to play a whole set of our own music, opening for Steve Gadd
and David Sanborn
, and Cindy Blackman
. This is my first time at Siena. I'm studying at the Hamburg music school and there came an email and our teacher said that it's a great opportunity. I love Larry Grenadier, and he's my bass instructor this week."
Mateja Dolsak hails from Slovenia. "The place where I come from in Slovenia is really just a village, and I started with classical education," says the 27 year-old saxophonist. "I didn't know anything about jazz because it wasn't really an environment where I'd hear about it. And then I started playing in different bands and orchestras and I wanted to learn how to improvise because I didn't know how to do that. I was transcribing from piano, but I wanted to go to school and learn about it. So I asked my teacher, 'What is jazz,' and he gave me Glenn Miller
[laughter] and I thought, 'Oh my God is this
is jazz? [laughter]. So, that's how I started to become interested, because I wanted to know how these people play without written notes.
"I don't remember the moment when I realized I was improvising," Dolsak continues. "I was playing with a teacher and he'd say, 'Okay, now improvise!' My first solo was on Miles Davis
' ' 'So What,' so I began playing a bit around the solo and grew from there. Then, at the school where I study, I saw the posters for Siena Jazz, and I have some friends who are here and they recommended itthey were really enthusiastic about it. This is my first time. This week I have one lesson with Miguel Zenón, and I also have classes with Pietro Tonolo
, Nir Felder
and Franco D'Andrea.