Local educator launches music academy – Monterey Herald
As we have all seen this year and more, the COVID crucible has led to innovations in the arts, sciences, education and technology. While some of us have quietly taken shelter while waiting for a new normal to arrive, others have been absorbed into behind-the-scenes businesses that may turn out to be revolutionary. Conductor and educator Danko Druško is such a person and his bold and brilliant vision of creating a new national class music academy on the Central Coast is taking shape this summer.
The organization is called California Central Coast Orchestra & Jazz Academy, using the acronym COJAC. The inaugural 2021 season will take place July 11-31. For security reasons related to COVID, the Academy will be an exclusively online experience this year.
Best known in our region for his direction of Youth Music Monterey, Druško is the artistic director of the new academy which brings together the jazz and classical genres in a unique new format.
“This is the first time that such an academy has been attempted,” he says. “This combination of jazz and classical musicians does not exist anywhere else in the world. The plan is to offer the Academy every year from now on. “
He says what started as the seed of an idea has turned into an incredible cultural opportunity, building on musical partnerships here on the Central Coast. COJAC faculty members will be world-class musicians from LA Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, San Francisco Opera, Eastman School of Music, Berklee College of Music, Grammy Award winners and others.
Druško says: “The three main organizers of COJAC are the Monterey Jazz Festival, El Sistema USA de Salinas (YOSAL) and Kuumbwa Jazz de Santa Cruz.
“The Monterey Jazz Festival is a great partner and an incredible organization, being one of the most wonderful jazz festivals in the world. We will bring El Sistema to Salinas to provide opportunities for underserved students. In Santa Cruz, in addition to Kuumbwa Jazz, the County Youth Symphony will also participate.
“The Monterey Symphony helps generously with sponsorships, as does Hartnell College and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.”
Druško envisions a conservatory atmosphere like that of the Western Music Academy in Santa Barbara, a nationally recognized summer school and festival founded in 1947 for talented young classically trained musicians and their audiences. A plus for COJAC is that our region offers a magnificent natural setting, just like the Academy of Western Music and the Aspen Music Festival and School.
“These are beautiful places that people want to visit, and if you can make music as a teacher or a student in those places, you would love to do that,” he says.
In addition to music enjoyed by students and faculty, Druško says attendees will be able to explore the area’s attractions that make it a popular destination.
“They can do a weekend at the beach, in Big Sur, at the Monterey Bay aquarium, in Santa Cruz. We can create something really powerful here.
“I hope next year it will be in person,” he said, “inviting some of the best musicians in the country and the world and the best young students from across the country to make music here. There is so much to learn from both sides (jazz and classical).
“I don’t know much about jazz in terms of professional aspects, but I learn so much by watching them and interacting. And the same goes for jazz musicians. They can learn a lot from us. In one academy, we can all come together to learn from each other and play together. “
Druško said the idea for the Academy came about when he spoke to his wife, cellist Ameena Khawaja, executive director of El Sistema, about the need to bring organizations together on the central coast. With COVID creating a new urgency for sharing resources and ideas, now seemed like the perfect time to lay the groundwork for a post-pandemic organization based on this cooperative experience.
“The idea was not to be by ourselves, not to keep our territory to ourselves, but to reach out to enrich our community. It’s all about collaboration. “
Druško’s enthusiasm for the project combined with his impressive experience and his connections with the music world make a strong impression. He has the leadership skills, integrity of purpose and vision to be the artistic leader of this new music academy. He appears as a natural collaborator with an impeccable instinct on the creation of partnerships. He appreciates the cultural benefits of music, art and education and has a constant respect for the individuals and organizations who are dedicated to supporting our Central Coast communities in this way.
Born to Croatian parents in Germany, Druško holds a doctorate in conducting from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. He received his Masters in Conducting from the Eastman School of Music and holds European degrees in English Literature and Linguistics with a minor in Philosophy and Ethics.
He came to the United States on a Rotary Ambassadorial Fellowship to study music, deepen international understanding, and friendship among people from different countries. He was an assistant professor and conductor of orchestra and opera at the Northern Illinois University School of Music. He is the founder and musical director of the Hoosier Philharmonic Orchestra and previously served as associate instructor at the Jacobs School of Music Opera & Ballet Theater at Indiana University. He has conducted professional, academic and youth orchestras across Europe and North America.
In Monterey County, Druško is the Music Director and Conductor of Youth Music Monterey, the Music Director of Youth Orchestra Salinas / El Sistema, and teaches at York School.
The COJAC Academy is described as an intensive and immersive musical experience for young jazz and classical musicians aged 14-24, and also offers a scholarship opportunity for two conductors.
Participants will participate in musical and social activities during Academy weeks, making connections with each other and with leading artists from around the world. They will receive daily instrumental training in their specialty, attend master classes given by guest artists and learn classical and / or jazz repertoire. There will be a jazz inspired orchestral work that will feature all members.
Regarding the funding of the Academy, Druško says: “We have contacted some donors, which is why we can do it this summer. It’s a collaboration between organizations, so each brings something. Other sources of funding are sought for the Academy 2022.
Druško did most of the organization of the impressive faculty of renowned artists of COJAC.
“It’s very exciting for any student,” he says. It’s an incredible opportunity to learn from and make important connections with these faculty members.
The repertoire students will be working on this summer includes “Tico Tico” by Brazilian composer Zequinha de Abreu, “Festive Overture” by Dmitry Shostakovich, “Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin and more.
Druško and his colleagues believe that the Academy should be affordable for students. In this regard, their purpose is astounding for these young artists. He says: “We want students who are not on an El Sistema plan to be able to do the three weeks for $ 300.”
Low income scholarships are available and no qualified person will be turned down for financial reasons.
Druško says that although the deadline for Academy applications is Monday, interested students still have more time to apply before the June 15 deadline. For more information on applications, programs and faculty, see www.cojacmusic.com.