CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati music teacher is one of only seven people chosen to participate in a new apprenticeship for jazz artists.
Lexi Hamner will be paired with established artists for performance and creative mentorships as part of Next Jazz Legacy, a three-year, national program launched to help make the music community more inclusive.
A traveling music teacher, Hamner has no trouble getting students at places like Rockdale Academy into the musical spirit. Her curriculum dates back centuries to the origin of Black American sound.
"Being able to teach about Black American music is so important to me," Hamner said. "I love that the students are still interested and welcome to the idea."
Hamner uses anything from the keyboard to the trombone to share the fundamentals of Black American music.
“I play for the class," Hamner said. "Sometimes I play my trombone, other times I may play the guitar to back myself up and other times I sing.”
She credits the church for giving her the music bug — and her middle school middle teacher for helping her fall in love with jazz.
“This is really freeing music," Hamner said. "Jazz is a form of music where I can really express myself musically."
Hamner will be able to hone into that expression during her apprenticeships with famous jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin and musician Tia Fuller. McFerrin won two Grammy Awards in 1989 for his No. 1 hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy," while Fuller was a featured musician in Pixar's "Soul.".
"It's so crazy," Hamner said. "Like, Bobby McFerrin is huge. Tia Fuller is huge — she's even played for Beyoncé."
Other heavy-hitters helping the seven awardees include Grammy Award-winning musician and singer Esperanza Spalding, saxophonist Wayne Shorter and guitarist Mary Halvorson.
"It is helpful to have people you can turn to for advice," Halvorson said. "Especially being a minority or an underrepresented person in the field, I think that's extra important just to make sure you are getting the right kind of guidance so you can make good decisions.”
In addition to apprenticeships, the awardees will participate in business mentorships and receive a scholarship to enroll in a Berklee Online course of their choice
to continue their education.
“It's beautiful to see a woman of her stature at her young age be recognized for the greatness that she has become,” said Lonia Lyle, Rockdale Academy's general music teacher.
Hamner will also receive a $10,000 grant to use as an investment in her career.
NKU professor navigated cancer through music, inspires future teachers
Viral TikTok campaign sends NKY teacher to Super Bowl