By Libby Baldwin
Special to the Journal
If you hear music drifting across the harbor on the evening of June 14, no need to check your hearing.
You’re catching the melodious stylings of two of Washington’s best musical jazz acts, all for a good cause… so wouldn’t it be better to catch them up close?
The 14th annual “Jazz at the Labs” is Saturday, June 14, at the Friday Harbor Laboratories, beginning at 6 p.m., with dinner in the Labs low-key yet historic dining hall. The San Juan Jazz Quintet will provide the soundtrack to the meal. They’ve been bringing the best of swing, bebop, standards and Latin jazz, along with delightful originals, to entertain islanders for more than 20 years. As an added treat, none other than Dennis the Labs’ former director, Dennis Willows, will be keeping the beat on percussions.
After dinner, Seattle’s fabulous Jazz Coalescence will swing into the spotlight, putting its unique, edgy spin on an array of jazz classics. KPLU Jazz talk show hosts Dick Stein and Jim Wilkey are also on tap to help with the festivities.
And, it's all for a most excellent, educational cause.
This enjoyable evening is first and foremost a benefit for Friday Harbor Labs K-12 Science Outreach Program. Founded in 2001, it works to partner scientists and researchers with K-12 classrooms to offer hands-on science experience to students on the island. The program aims to make sure that students develop a keen environmental awareness, especially given how fortunate they are to grow up surrounded by one of the country’s most active and interesting marine ecosystems.
“The whole idea of Jazz at the Labs is to have an evening of good friends, music and food to celebrate in a way to help students in island schools catch the ‘science bug’, Willows said. “The San Juan Jazz Quintet has been opening at the labs for some of the best Pacific Northwest jazzers for about 10 years. As a result, hundreds of kids have had opportunities to dive into real science with both hands. What’s not to like about that?”
The students involved in the outreach program have an opportunity to experiment under the watchful eye of real scientists, via a variety of creative projects that are sure to make more of an impact than reading facts from a textbook.
“The 8th grade works every year with two scientists from the labs to review the scientific process by looking at marine critters and designing a data-gathering lab,” Friday Harbor Middle School teacher Jenny Wilson said. “They go with the scientists on a daylong experiment to gather the data.”
Wilson, among other things, runs the “Roots and Shoots” program at the middle school, and said that the labs offered to connect one group studying starfish with scientists to help guide the research. The students are able to use an underwater camera, combining modern technology with classic study techniques. The current massive die-off of starfish up and down the Pacific Coast gives a timely impact to their project.
You can help support these enterprising students and at the same time have some fun by making reservations for Jazz at the Labs. For more information or to reserve your spot, call the labs at 378-2165 ext. 0.
— Editor’s note: San Juan Island freelance writer Libby Baldwin’s articles are published periodically by The Journal.