12 Jan 2010, Posted by Davey Yarborough in Design & Culture, Future Forward, Guests from Washington D.C., 0 Comments

Future Forward – Davey Yarborough

In Helsinki, Davey Yarborough found himself opened to a “whole culture with emphasis on education and the facilitation of education.” Says Yarborough, “In Finland, music education is facilitated, all the way from elementary school to college. Here the mandate of having instrumental music programs in the elementary level and secondary level was relaxed quite a few years ago. We’ve been trying to recover ever since.” Seeing what he calls ‘an example of what the possibilities are when things are right,” Yarborough, despite budget cuts, finds himself newly inspired as a driving force for the move back toward that kind of level of music accessibility for all students.

Building potential international experiences for his Duke Ellington students is an ongoing priority—Yarborough has taken groups to France and The Netherlands in the past—and one he’d like to see blossom through his Finland friendships. “I’ve seen firsthand the impact of relationships built globally, young people seeing peers in another place do what they’re doing. There’s validation that this is a worldwide thing, not just something happening on my block or in my school.” Yarborough would like to take a group of music students from Duke Ellington to Finland where students explore jazz together through joint concerts, sitting in on classes, or in joint concerts. Yarborough’s dream was experienced in small part in May 2009 with the MYHelsinki Kennedy Center Millennium Stage performance where a small Duke Ellington ensemble played before the Helsinki group. “I look at the week I was in Helsinki and I know I just scratched the surface, and I want my students to get a little bit of that.”

In May Yarborough performed with his Finnish host Jari Perkiömäki, head of the Sibelius Academy of Music, and their wives at the Embassy of Finland, in a program including Ellington student Bruno George from Germany . The event, presented for an audience including former Duke Ellington students, colleagues, and friends provided Yarborough with the perfect inter-cultural platform. “The similarities, the synergy in what we were presenting in just bringing the two cultural groups together. There’s the spark of huge possibility.”

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About the writer

Davey Yarborough Director of Jazz Program, Duke Ellington School of the Arts Davey Yarborough
Native Washingtonian Davey Yarborough's commitment to music began in the third grade with the coveted silver clarinet of his best friend. "I went home and told my dad I wanted a silver clarinet," says Yarborough. "I knew right then I wanted to be a musician." Largely self-taught until college, he developed his ear, teaching himself through experimenting with different instruments and listening to his parents diverse record collection. A performer, bandleader, composer and arranger, and educator, Yarborough's award-winning career includes work with such jazz greats as Sir Roland Hanna, Keter Betts, Billy Eckstine, Buck Hill, Shirley Horn, Lena Horne and Joe Williams, and Wynton Marsalis. Playing at clubs and concert halls, Yarborough has also performed at major jazz festivals including the East Coast Jazz Festival and the Blues/Jazz festival of San Remo, Italy. The creator and director of the jazz orchestra "The New Washingtonians" and director of the jazz program at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts Washington, DC, Yarborough is a tireless champion for aspiring young performers. A recipient of the 1998 Mayor's Arts Award in Washington, D.C., for Excellence in Dedication to the Arts-he and his wife, Esther Williams, recently launched the Washington Jazz Arts Institute, a mentoring program for children who know at an early age they want to be artists. "This is my dream. We give them free lessons and career guidance. I had no early formal training, my parents weren't part of the music world. I understand the importance of this access." Yarborough has traveled extensively throughout the world with his Jazz Orchestra, and looks forward to exploring the culture of Finland. "Usually, when I'm abroad cultural engagement comes through the kids when they're performing and getting them to interact with their peers. I'd like to see how Finnish youth are brought into the arts, and look at the educational process for ideas on how to enhance what we're doing here, and creating exposure for our work here."


Jari Perkiömaki Dean, Head of Jazz studies, Sibelius Academy Jari Perkiömaki

The mission of the Sibelius Academy's Jazz Department is to provide the highest level of jazz education in Finland at undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels.

Mr Yarborough's programme will consist of visiting the department, observing the collective teaching and meeting the faculty teachers. Mr Yarborough will be invited to different concert and jam sessions with the teachers and students of the jazz and music education programmes. In addition, the programme will include familiarisation with the two other jazz degree programmes in Helsinki: one at the Helsinki Pop and Jazz Conservatory and the Jazz and Pop programme at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.