YOUNG@HEART and a Day of Jazz at the Chicago Cultural Center

Posted on December 21, 2009

This past Saturday, Community Cinema hosted a truly one-of-a-kind event for the film YOUNG@HEART in Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center. ITVS National Community Cinema Coordinator, Naomi Walker, shares her experience at the event.

Thanks to our wonderful partner the Jazz Institute of Chicago who teamed up with Community Cinema, WTTW Channel 11 and The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs to present a screening of YOUNG@HEART and a day of jazz greats both young and old at the Chicago Cultural Center. The event began at 12:15 PM with a concert by Chicago Public School’s All-City Youth Jazz Ensemble. The young people showed their dedication, passion and talent and played a wide range of jazz forms. Shaunese Teamer, Manager of Community Outreach and National Publicity at WTTW, invited the young musicians and their families and friends to a reception after the concert. The Ensemble and their fans mingled with WTTW members in the beautiful rotunda at the Cultural Center. Our guest speakers all met at the reception to the delight of the jazz aficionados in the crowd. Jazz legends Fred Anderson, Mwata Bowden, and Willie Pickens have all known each other for years. Mwata and Willie have made regular appearances at Fred’s famous club, The Velvet Lounge.

Over 150 people braved the shopping hordes and the snow to come downtown for the free screening of YOUNG@HEART. Shaunese Teamer welcomed the crowd and gave a hearty kudos to Independent Lens for its 10+ years of groundbreaking programming. Audience members commented that the film inspired them to want to go into show business and take to the stage. Here are some of their other comments from after the event. “I’m going to look for a local choir for my husband!”“Made me want to join a chorus even if I can’t sing.”“Their singing keeps them going. That gives them something to live for.”“IT WAS SUPERB! Made our holiday great.”

After the film, the jazz legends came onstage and shared their stories of persistence, passion and their secrets to longevity. Jazz was in its infancy when they were starting out, so there was no one to really show them the way. Now each of them makes it a point to mentor young musicians. Willie and Mwata each spoke of the great contribution that the Velvet Lounge has made in giving jazz musicians young and old a place to experiment and continually push the envelope. Earlier this year, both Mwata and Willie participated in a star-studded tribute to Fred Anderson on his 80th birthday, where Fred’s compositions were performed by a large orchestra in Millenium Park. Multi-instrumentalist Mwata Bowden speaks about passion. 

Pianist Willie Pickens explains that constantly exploring such a vast art form keeps one young at heart.


Tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson shares his formula for survival.


All photos by photographer Fred Hickler. Thanks, Fred! And a big thank you to our partners and to the folks who joined us for this day of exploring youth and maturity in jazz. 

-Naomi Walker ITVS National Community Outreach Coordinator


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