School Outreach in South Africa: An Introduction

Eddie Lewis addresses a group of junior school students in a South Africa school.

Those of you who know me personally know that I love to share what I have learned. Teaching is one of my passions, and a part of my career that I value deeply. My recent visit to Africa allowed me to indulge this passion in a new environment: in Eastern Cape public schools.

Thanks to Glenda, Carolyn, and Tim, I was able to connect with a handful of East London’s school music teachers before I even arrived in South Africa. As a result, our school outreach program was extended into schools in and around East London. I met music teachers who love music, play jazz, enjoy their students, and are passionate about teaching. I worked with a variety of interesting students from grades three to twelve. As with students here in the United States, some of the South African students that I met were wildly excited about playing their instruments. Others seemed less enthusiastic but still enjoyed our presentation. I sat in band halls and stood in school music rooms not unlike their US equivalents. En route to these familiar venues, I was respectfully greeted by the neatly dressed students that passed by me in the hallways: a subtle reminder that South Africa is well-known for its warm hospitality to visitors.

Through some of the next few blog posts, I will share about my experiences with some of the East London area’s schools. Each of the schools I will write about has its own set of traditions and culture which carries over into the personality of the bands I worked with. My school visits involved giving workshops, master classes, and general interest presentations, tailored to the specific needs of each school. Each visit was not only an opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with young learners, but also a chance for me to learn more about music education in South Africa.

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Jazz Forever – Moonlight Modness Ball

Moonlight Modness Ball Flyer Rev2-pagesJazz forever will be providing music for this event:

The historic 1956 Sylvan Beach Pavilion overlooking the North end of Galveston Bay in La Porte, celebrates social dancing by offering a 3,600 ft2 circular dance floor at the center of a 10,000 ft2 glass walled ballroom.  Closed for nearly 5 years and at one point threatened with demolition, The Friends Of Sylvan Beach Park & Pavilion (FSBP&P) championed its restoration and listing on the National Parks, National Historic Registry (NHR), as a State of Texas Archeological Landmark (SAL) and as a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark (RTHL).  In fact, the monies currently being used for its spectacular renovation were a result of a HUD grant issued as a result of its listing on the National Historic Registry.  This grand Ballroom will is scheduled to reopen later this year.

As a ramp up to what surely will be a spectacular all day event culminating with a evening Ballroom dance, The FSBP&P is hosting The Moonlight Modness Ball, Saturday, June 8 at the SPJST Pasadena Ballroom at 3609 Preston 77505.  Attendees will be dancing all evening to superb ballroom music played by a newly formed orchestra comprised of some of Houston’s top musicians.

Your ticket purchases are tax deductible as FSBP&P is a 501(C)(3) education non profit.  Door prizes, a silent auction and a scrumptious desert for donation table will be available.  Tickets are $50 per couple pre-purchased or $60 at the door.  Monies raised will be used to assist in the furnishing and outfitting the pavilion for dancing events.  This is important as the County has announced that they will not provide any furnishings, stage lighting or sound systems.

To pre-purchase tickets on line please visit the Moonlight Modness page at our website  Or send us a check, made payable to Friends of Sylvan Beach Park & Pavilion, to P.O.Box 558, La Porte Texas 77572. Pre-purchased tickets will be at Will Call window in foyer.  A flyer is attached for you to post on your website or bulletin board.  Please spread the word and we look forward to seeing all of you at the Moonlight Modness Ball!

Oh, and consider dressing in those late 50’s – early 60’s fashions.  A special award awaits the couple who best represents the period fashion!   Also, Houston Community College will have videographers there to capture any of your Sylvan Beach Pavilion memories.


Ted Powell

President, FSBP&P


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Why I’m a Christian

crossWe live in an unprecedented time in the United States when Christianity is becoming increasingly less popular. We as Christians are referred to as “backwards”, “short minded”, “brainwashed” “nut jobs.” (And that’s the PG version!) Among those who consider themselves to be intellectuals, the idea of being Christian makes no sense. Generally speaking, they see Christians as redneck hillbillies who never grew their intellect beyond the 19th century. Since I consider myself an intellectual, rational and well reasoned man, my life represents something of a paradox worthy of explanation.

I am a Christian. I’ve been in a relationship with Jesus Christ since I was in elementary school. But I also have a thirst for knowledge and higher thinking. I am a scientist at heart. I understand the importance of objectivity, logic and sound reasoning. To many of my intellectual friends, this begs the question, “Why are you a Christian?”

Not for These Reasons

Before I tell you why I’m a Christian, I want to run through a list of reasons that do not apply to me.

Not Out of Loyalty

I’m not a Christian just because I’m loyal to the Christian faith. This isn’t a “team spirit” thing for me. It’s not us against them. Not that I have anything against genuine loyalty, but loyalty is a sorry reason for being Christian.

Not Because Christians are Such Wonderful People

A lot of people say that they have experienced evil at the hands of people who call themselves Christians. I have a great many friends who take gigs at churches where they think that the music ministers are self serving hypocrites. I have even met people who were raped by their pastors. Many people say they will never become Christian because the people they know who are Christian are evil people.

But my reason for being Christian has nothing to do with how wonderful the people are. Even if you could prove that 99% of all Christians are evil hypocrites, it would not convince me to give up my relationship with Jesus.

Not Because of My Family

I won’t go into details about my family life here in this context. But I can tell you that, if I was Christian just because of my family, then my relationship with some of them would be very different today. Being from a Christian family doesn’t make you Christian. You can be part of the Christian culture and never really be a Christian. I’ve heard many testimonials about pastors’ children who grew up in the church but only became saved as adults. So no, family doesn’t make you Christian.

Not Because of My Teachers

I don’t remember ever having a Christian school teacher. In fact, quite the opposite. I remember very specifically that my kindergarten teacher was a hard core, enlightened liberal who put a lot of ideas into my head at that young age. She’s the one who influenced me into being anti-car. Cars were dangerous machines that polluted our atmosphere and I grew up thinking that it would be better if we all rode horses instead. (ha ha! like THAT would solve the pollution problem?)

The point is, I never had the influence of a Christian school teacher when I was growing up. So you cannot just pass my Christianity off as being brainwashed into me by my teachers.

Not Because of My Church

When i was growing up, my family moved a lot. For most of my childhood, my family moved at least once per year, and often twice. We never really had a “home church.” In all of my childhood, (because we never lived any one place long enough to establish long term relationships) I cannot remember a single church leader. I don’t remember any of the pastors. I don’t remember my Sunday school teachers.  There have been a few sermons I remembered, but most of what I learned as a child came straight from the Bible, not from the church.

Then during my college years, I went from church to church looking for the right place for me. I went to an Assembly of God for a while, but really, from the early 80’s until the late 90’s, I didn’t have a church. It wasn’t until I got hired at Quail Valley Church that I had a long term relationship with any church members or leadership. By that time I was already in my late 30’s. I had been a Christian for at least twenty years by then.

Not Because of My Government

Governments do not make people Christian. In Ephesians 6:12 the Bible says that our enemies are the powers of this world. I have always thought of the governments in that light. All governments. The founding fathers of the USA maintained that power corrupts people. They set out to create a system of government that would hold that corruption at bay.

Unfortunately, today people mistake this for righteousness. They think that America was once a righteous nation. Not so! The strength of our government has always been that there is a system in place to keep evil contained.

It’s a big mistake to think we can elect Christians into office and then we will be a Christian nation. It doesn’t work that way. Nor does it work the other way around. I have heard people say lately that having more Christians in our country will eventually make our government more Christian. Wrong! Government is the enemy.

(I am not an anarchist or anything like that. The Bible also says to submit to everyone in authority over you.)

Not Because I’m Ignorant

I am a well educated musician. I have studied sociology and psychology both formally and informally. I have been “enlightened” through my experiences as a freelance musician and my world travels. I am continually exposed to other cultures, other religions and opposing ideals. I am probably more “enlightened” than most people who consider themselves to be so.

I guess that logic behind the whole “Christians are ignorant” thing is based on an even deeper kind of ignorance. Their assumption is that no one of any intelligence would ever believe the things that Christians believe, simply because THEY don’t believe it. So their flawed logic suggests, “if we are intelligent and we don’t believe it, then those who believe must not be intelligent.” This is faulty reasoning.

Not Because It Makes Sense

There are a lot of things about being a Christian that do NOT make sense. And that’s okay with me. The Bible says:

“my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8)

It has been my experience in life that the people who make the most sense are those who are trying to sell you something. I’m almost certain that the people who drank Jim Jones’ koolaid thought he made sense.

True life doesn’t work like that. Real life has mysteries to explore at every level of detail. That’s why you can be an expert on a subject for thirty years and still feel like you have only scratched the surface.

None of these are good reasons to be a Christian

To me, being Christian is not about being in a club of like thinkers. It’s not about being accepted by your community. It’s not about having people pat you on the back to tell you how wonderful you are. All the reasons people have for not being Christian never mattered to me.

‘Tis So Sweet

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er

‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
Lyrics by Lou­i­sa M. R. Stead, 1882

Now, before I share with you the reason I am a Christian, I want to clarify that I never do anything for just one reason. I am not like that. There have to be many reasons that align themselves in the right way for me to make a decision about something. This is especially true for big things, like “who am I going to give my life to?” So when i say that this is the reason I am a Christian, I think more specifically I am saying that this is the reason why I continue to remain a Christian even after so many people have called my faith into question.

The reason I am a Christian is just as the above quote suggests. The refrain from ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus says, “How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.” I am a Christian today because I have seen real world results of true Christian living. I know intimately the power of Christ Jesus. I have “proved Him” hundreds of times over in my life time and in many different ways. I am a living, walking testimony of the truth of God’s promises.

I am not the kind of person who continues to do something if it doesn’t work. That’s how I was able to develop the trumpet and jazz methods that I have. I approach just about everything in life rationally, as if everything is a science experiment. I do that with my music, my health, my family life, everything.

So I can tell you that I would not be a Christian today if the promises made in the Bible were not true. There are promises in the Bible, very specific promises, some which outline very specific results if you do what it says. I have spent the last thirty years putting those promises to the test. The results in my life are irrefutable.

Consider This Logic

If the promises in the Bible are true, if God does indeed keep His word, what then does it matter to my faith that there are thousands of hypocrites who call themselves Christians? Do those thousands now nullify my experiences? No they do not. None of the criticisms people have stacked against the Christian faith have ever diminished my own personal “results.”

But here’s the trick. For anyone to disprove the Bible, they must have tried it themselves. And for them to try it, they must have first read and comprehended the Bible. Then they must have actually done what it says. And that’s the problem. The people who criticize Christianity only do so as outsiders. They tend to be people who have only read certain parts of the Bible and use those bits and pieces to demonstrate contradiction. It is easy to find things in the Bible that contradict each other. It’s not so easy to learn what the Bible actually says and to live your life accordingly.

I became a Christian for other reasons. When I was saved, I needed Jesus in my life at that time. But all of that would have been undone later if my life experiences had proved the Bible wrong. For those of you who know me, you know that’s how I am. I do not continue with anything if it doesn’t work. But there’s only one way to find out. Right?

That’s what I did. What I found was a better life. I found love. I found unconditional acceptance. I found mighty power and strength. I found an easier way to live with far greater rewards. And the beauty of it all is that these rewards are not mine to hoard, but to share with the people God brings into my life. So the more successful and genuine God’s promises are to me, the more I can bless the people in my life.

That’s why I’m Christian. Not because of what I get out of it, but because of what God can do through me for other people.

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Texas All-State Jazz Trombone Etude

I submitted a jazz etude to TAJE (The Texas Association of Jazz Educators) again this year. But this time I wrote a trombone etude instead of trumpet. The reason for this was because I judged the trombones for All-State Jazz last year and I heard a lot of complaints from the other judges about the etudes. I was the only non-trombone player in the room and the guys were very apologetic to me throughout the day. They kept saying that the trombones don’t normally sound so bad, but that the etudes were not very idiomatic to the instrument.

I understand their complaints better than you might think. Several years ago I submitted a trumpet etude a few weeks too late. The trumpet etudes had already been chosen, but they still needed trombone etudes. So they transposed my jazz trumpet etude and used it for the trombones.

Later that year, I noticed a lot of complaints on facebook about the trombone etudes. My response was to explain to them how my etude ended up on their list and then I encouraged those who were complaining to write and submit their own etudes.

Well, apparently, they didn’t take my suggestions to heart. When I asked the TJEA leadership which etudes they needed most, trombone was at the top of the list.

So yeah, I’m writing trombone etudes now. No, I don’t play trombone, but for as long as real trombone players refuse to spend the time doing the writing, I think it’s far better for a non-trombone player to write the etudes than it is for them to take other etudes and transpose them.

The etude I submitted this year is the official swing etude for 2014 for the trombones. I didn’t submit a trumpet etude because I have been extremely busy lately. But I wanted to help out where I knew the help was needed.

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Musical Masterful Thoughts

Think Brain“It is my contention that great players achieve musical mastery
by thinking masterful musical thoughts.” Howard Snell
“Think 10 times, and play once.” Theodore Leschetizky

Theodore Leschetizky is the 19th century piano teacher who invented the working backwards approach that I use with my students all the time. I remembered this quote recently while reading Howard Snell’s book titled, The Trumpet, Its Practice and Performance, A Guide for Students. Howard Snell was the principal trumpet player in the London Symphony Orchestra and later a major figure in the British brass band movement.

After we have achieve basic skills as trumpet players, the instrument we now play is our minds. All of the most important musical substance happens within the grey matter between our ears.

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Tomato Followup

tomatosIn February of last year, I posted a blog about the tomato plants that were popping up around our garden. These were plants that we didn’t plant and I wrote a short article about being blessed by the opportunities God provides for us. [You can read that blog post by clicking here.]

This is just a quick followup to let my readers know that, for the second year we are having big tomato harvests (big for a small city garden) and we haven’t planted tomatoes since 2011. And even though you could say that this is to be expected if you are planting heirloom seeds, which we normally do. However, some of our harvests are plants we have never planted seeds for.

The black tomatoes in the picture above are from heirloom seeds. And even though we did not get a very good “crop” that first year, it was obviously good enough for the seeds to drop and replant themselves.

But what’s most remarkable is that this is our second year growing roma tomatoes. We’ve never planted roma tomatoes, but the plants are thriving and we have picked about four or five nice sized tomatoes already this year.

We have also had acorn squash this year, which we never planted. In fact, I don’t think we’ve even bought acorn squash in over a year. So the seeds must have been dormant in the compost pile for that long.

If you are a Christian, I encourage you to read my original post. Psalm 127 says:

1 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Psalms 127:1 (KJV)

I think of these things every time we work in the garden and harvest these tomatoes. I cannot imagine a better way to live and this kind of gardening serves as an encouraging reminder to strive to live every aspect of our lives this way.

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Jazz Forever: An Afternoon of Jazz

Jazz Forever - May 26 posterPlease come and join us. This promises to be a fun concert of jazz and dance music. The band has been active since February with recording sessions and one dance performance. Now here is a chance to hear us in a concert setting.

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