By: Alicia Sands Lurry
Eighth grader Jay Hammond probably never imagined that his compassionate idea would morph into a social advocacy project and impact people’s lives.
A year ago, the Inman Middle School student told his father he wanted to use his love and talent for music to raise money to support people with developmental disabilities while also helping the school’s band program.
With the help of his father, John, Jay’s idea soon blossomed into a jazz recording project. Last summer, the tenor saxophonist and seven members of the Inman Jazz Allstars (INJA) came together and spent nearly 100 hours practicing, rehearsing, and recording jazz standards for their “All of Us” CD.
Produced by bassist Khari Cabral Simmons and Darren Benjamin, the CD now sells for $15 on cdbaby.com and features such standards as “Misty,” “Take 5,” “Summertime,” “All of Me,” and Besame Mucho.”
In addition to Jay, “All of Us” features Andrew Beamon and Alex Tischer on trumpet; Robert Mobley, piano; Justina Mason, vocals; Isaac Tanner, alto, tenor and baritone sax; Eric Slovensky, electric bass; and Max Seldes, drums.Their teacher, Band Director Arneesa Woods, also performs tenor sax on the CD.
On Wednesday, Feb. 24, INJA celebrated their success with a CD release party and concert at the Red Light Cafe in Atlanta. All proceeds will benefit the Inman Middle School Band Program and Citizen Advocacy of Atlanta and DeKalb, a community-based organization that advocates for individuals with development disabilities.
“It was really fun and everyone was connected when we were recording the CD,” Jay said. “It was really awesome. I want to do it again.”
Derona King, executive director of Citizen Advocacy, is grateful for the students’ efforts.
“This young man’s gift of music is making room for him and bringing people of all abilities together through advocacy and social change,” King said. “This shows that we are powerful together, and together we’re just able.”
Woods beamed with pride when discussing her students’ efforts.
“It was a village effort,” Woods said. “I am extremely proud of them, and am amazed they were able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.”