For Immediate Release:

Twin Cities Youth Release Historic Album “Experience Jazz 2020: The Sounds of Distance”

Teen Artists from Minnesota Jazz Education’s “Experience Jazz” Combo Program Record Album From Home During COVID-19 Pandemic

Impacting Media and Radio 11/2/20 FCC Clean

St. Paul, MN – November 2, 2020 – Today, the teen artists from Minnesota Jazz Education’s “Experience Jazz” combo program released ‘Experience Jazz 2020: The Sounds of Distance.’ The album is a collection of 13 hybrid-jazz tracks all recorded, mixed, and produced from home in the midst of a dystopian COVID-19 landscape.

‘Experience Jazz 2020: The Sounds of Distance’ is available on all digital platforms, released on the High School for Recording Arts’ (HSRA) student-run record label “Another Level Records.”

‘Experience Jazz’ is a genre-bridging music ensemble program run by Minnesota Jazz Education (MJE) designed for instrumentalists, vocalists, rappers and DJs, with a goal of fostering creativity and collaboration by bringing together aspiring artists from diverse backgrounds with a common desire to make new music rooted in jazz, blues, pop and hip-hop. Presented in partnership with HSRA, students rehearsed together in HSRA’s state-of-the-art Studio 4 throughout February and early March 2020. 

When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, MJE faced a serious question regarding the fate of this program. With schools suddenly closed, students needed a means to express themselves. While other programs completely shut down, MJE did the difficult work to move Experience Jazz online, which was successful thanks to the dedicated and creative spirit of Experience Jazz teaching artists. 

Using video-conferencing, recording software, and other apps, students collaborated on recording projects together. This provided students a creative endeavor during an uncertain time, allowed them to continue seeing and playing for each other, and empowered them to learn how to collaborate remotely.

“Having the program keep running during the pandemic was really cool because it gave me something to look forward to,” says Gael Manzur Strandlund, Class of 2023. 

Led by industry professionals Katia Cardenas, Omar Abdulkarim, Arthur “L.A.” Buckner, and Scotty Herold, the program partnered with Studio 4 at HSRA and Ramsey County’s Working Solutions U-Lead Program to give recent HSRA graduates, TL Reigns and DJ Mickey Breeze, paid internships as producers and studio engineers. 

Through Experience Jazz, these talented interns, and artists in their right, received job experience in a real-world production environment, while instructing, mentoring, and collaborating with students in beatmaking, songwriting, recording, and studio engineering.  

“Learning from and playing with people who look like me — it makes a difference when you can relate to somebody,” says Jerome Treadwell, Class of 2022. 

“While rooted in jazz, this program embraces the power and artistry of hip-hop, rhythm & blues and other genres students and instructors want to explore together,” says MJE Board Chair, Justin Christy. “We strive to bring together students of a multitude of cultural and musical backgrounds in an innovative music-making environment.” 

This semester-long weekly combo program is an incubator for middle and high school musicians to learn, play and compose new music together, as well as record, and gain performance experience at respected local venues, including the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Every year offers students a unique experience, led by a new line up of accomplished music artists. Past teaching artists have included Tasha Baron, Aaron Hedenstrom, Steven Hobert, Kavyesh Kaviraj, Gabe Moore, Lucia Sarmiento, and Kenny Watson. 

While responding to the pandemic was a challenge, Experience Jazz has had to adjust to big changes mid-season before. In its first year, MJE (then known as “Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education”) partnered with McNally Smith College of Music, which shocked the local music community with its sudden closure in December 2017. This was devastating to hundreds of local music students and teachers, and left Experience Jazz with nowhere to go. The program was able to find a new home at HSRA/Studio 4, which have proven to be committed partners, thanks in large part to Executive Director Tony Simmons, and Business of Music teacher Scotty Herold.

“On behalf of our founder David TC Ellis and our entire HSRA/Studio 4 family, we are proud to partner with MN Jazz Education on such an incredible project! This is what true community collaboration is all about and happens when young people are at the center of our collective work,” said Tony Simmons.

In the last couple years, MJE and HSRA’s partnership has fostered meaningful collaborations, resulting in recordings with a hard-hitting social message, like last year’s “Strange Fruit 2019” featuring young MC, Pablo Manu, Class of 2021. Manu rhymes in English and Spanish over a remix of this iconic ballad, rapping “I thought I heard this was the land of the free / why can’t I breathe / the systemic beat of the song slowly strangling me, yo / No peace of mind until I RIP.”

“Everything about this record is being handled by youth still in their teens including the distribution, marketing, and servicing of the national media and radio,” says Scotty Herold. “The staff mentored Experience Jazz youth to help enhance their performance and recording skills while learning about the great history of jazz music and its influence on hip-hop, gospel, and soul.”

The 13 tracks on ‘Experience Jazz 2020: The Sounds of Distance’ reflect the various influences for Generation Z. Original R&B compositions, “SEVEN” and “Pilot 90,” were composed collectively by students in LA Buckner’s combo, and feature the promising young vocalist Eycis Maxon. The groove-heavy and fast swinging jazz arrangements from Omar Abdulkarim’s students in “Get Dis Money” and “Mental Phrasing” respectively, reflect the already mature tastes of these young jazz players. 

The hip-hop tracks were created and produced by Scotty Herold’s studio team of students ranging in age from 12 to 18. The lyrics featured students’ identity and heritage in “Muertos” and hot takes on life experiences, the world, and music in the cover of War’s “The World is A Ghetto 2020,” featuring young rappers Abdullahi Jama and Pablo Manu, alongside teacher Scotty Herold. The album also includes 5 remixes by studio interns TL Reigns and DJ Mickey Breeze who use their artistry to spin the students’ initial ideas into fresh new beats. The interns also mixed and mastered all tracks on the album. 

Going into its fourth year, MJE staff are preparing for a spring-time launch of Experience Jazz 2021 by working with parents, students and music teachers to understand challenges and solutions currently being explored in the field of music education. The fact that students were able to record and release ‘Experience Jazz 2020: The Sounds of Distance’ from home is a testament to the vast possibilities for collaboration and creative expression in a distance-learning environment. Their work serves as an inspiration for all musicians striving to make music together during this pandemic and beyond.


If you’re interested in writing a story about our ‘Experience Jazz 2020: The Sounds of Distance’ release, the Experience Jazz program or students, please reach out using the contact information at the bottom of this page.

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram at @mnjazzed and @HSRAMinnsota.

About Minnesota Jazz Education
Minnesota Jazz Education (formerly “Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education”) has been dedicated to providing quality jazz education programming to Minnesota youth since 1997. Through community-wide workshops, in-school residencies and combo programs like Experience Jazz, we aim to create equitable opportunities that reach students of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Learn more at

About High School for Recording Arts HSRA is dedicated to providing all young people a chance to realize their full potential, despite any previous setbacks. As we engage students through music and the exploration and operation of the music business, we demonstrate that core learning areas and real-world, 21st-century skills can be acquired at the same time. More than just earning a high school diploma, HSRA prepares students for positive post-secondary education and life. Learn more at 

We look forward to hearing from you! Listen and share our music iTunes HERE. Download on Bandcamp for $7, or donate more, proceeds go to supporting Minnesota Jazz Education. 

Contact information, Student Publicists & Radio Servicing
Email: Kitty Langevin, HSRA Student Publicist
Email: Wisdom Bush, Experience Jazz Student Publicist

Contact Information for Educators
Email: Katia Cardenas, Program Coordinator, Experience Jazz
Email: Scotty Herold, Business of Music Teacher, HSRA
Phone: 206-769-8418

For more information visit