By: Sara Gronewold
Scottsdale, Ariz. — Scottsdale, Arizona, is nearly a thousand miles from Alamos in Sonora, Mexico, yet through a student exchange program under the direction of Scottsdale Sister Cities, students from three to four different high schools in each city have, over the past couple of months, still been able to directly experience each other’s cultures.
This year, executive director of International Jazz Day AZ Foundation Wm. Doc Jones was invited to introduce the art form of New Orleans Jazz to the Alamos/Sonora community. Doc Jones was also part of the committee formed to develop this year’s exchange, under the direction of former president of Scottsdale Sister Cities Max Rumbaugh Jr. and other members of the organization. Mr. Rumbaugh Jr. thought the addition of New Orleans Jazz to the exchange program’s agenda would broaden students’ cultural educations.
Parents of Scottsdale students had their concerns in regards to the exchange, wondering about the safety of their children crossing the border or drinking different water. Likewise, parents in Alamos were anxious about the possibility of their children being accosted by drug-dealing gangs on school playgrounds. These stereotypes are the sort that Scottsdale Sister Cities, International Jazz Day AZ Foundation, Arizona Governor Ducey, and Sonora Governor Palovich hope this program will help erase.
“It caught fire with the students from Alamos and Scottsdale after Doc Jones and his band played for their party in Scottsdale back in September,” said Max, “and it seemed to just take off from there.” Beginning with the Alamos students’ trip to Scottsdale and including a meeting between Mayors Omar Salas and Jim Lane about the exchanges, the program has experienced one success after the other.
This past week’s visit to Alamos by the Scottsdale delegation transformed the direction of the parents’ and students’ thoughts about Mexico. According to Doc Jones, “They realized that they and the Sonorans had common desires, expectations, and goals for their children in the areas of education, family values, and community social structures, and now music – good, old, New Orleans Jazz music.”
Doc Jones established International Jazz Day AZ Foundation three years ago, following the leads of UNSECO and Herbie Hancock in hopes to develop a model day-of-Jazz celebration that could help use Jazz to promote peace around the world. This year, over 196 countries produced events to bring attention to America’s “original” art form, Jazz. The foundation’s long-term goal is to provide workshops and art consultants to school boards and communities in Sonora, spreading New Orleans Jazz for years to come.
“Most importantly, we made new friends,” says Jose, a saxophone student from Alamos who participated in the exchange. “We understand each other, even though we speak different languages and have different customs. For me, in particular, it’s a way to move us to learn English in order to better communicate.”