Sixteen-year-old vibraphonist Rocco Williams’s passion for music is readily evident. Ask Rocco about jazz and he sits up straighter, breaks into a smile and searches for the right words to convey his deep love for the art.
“Jazz is the universal music, it allows you to communicate to others when you play,” said Rocco.
Rocco’s first dive into music was in fourth grade when he began taking drum lessons from a family friend. Realizing his musical talent, Rocco’s mother pushed him to audition for the Denver School of the Arts where he caught Band Director Greg Harris’s passion for the vibraphone.
Rehearsing at least eight hours a week, both at the Denver School of the Arts and with Colorado Conservancy for the Jazz Arts, Rocco also practices for two to three hours a day on his own.
Already a semi-professional, Rocco performs anywhere from two to eight times a month with local groups and musicians, including drummer Todd Reed, his teacher and vibraphonist Greg Harris, bassist John Grigsby, and keyboarder/pianist Ron Jolly.
Rocco preforms in the KUVO studio several times a year with Denver School of the Arts and Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts as well as with other local musicians. He credits these performances with helping him mature as a musician.
“Playing in a studio is very technical,” said Rocco. “I had to learn how to be more aware of my instrument and myself.”
An avid listener of KUVO, Rocco cites Milt Jackson and Lionel Hampton as his favorite jazz artists.
“I listen to KUVO every day, sometimes nearly every hour,” said Rocco. “KUVO broadens my horizons by introducing me to new artists and songs, as well as other vibraphonists.”
KUVO works year-round with young musicians to help keep jazz alive and thriving. KUVO’s work with up-and-coming artists includes the station’s High School/Collegiate Series in-studio performances, workshops connecting students with seasoned professionals and work to connect young listeners to jazz.
Besides working directly with up-and-coming musicians, the station emphasizes music education and cultural programming over the airwaves.
“Supporting the next generation of jazz greats is an invaluable investment,” said Tina Cartagena, Chief Revenue Officer at KUVO. “We place a high importance on educating young musicians knowing they are the future of jazz.”
Rocco plans to continue studying music in college as a jazz vibraphone major. Hoping to make a living as a musician, Rocco wants to see the world and play with as many people as possible, communicating through the language of jazz.
Rocco has noticed a gap when it comes to jazz education.
“Most music programs in schools don’t emphasize jazz,” said Rocco. “But KUVO is helping fill that gap, and making it easier for youth to be exposed to this type of music.”
Rocco does not believe that the lack of jazz education for youth means that jazz is a dying art.
“I think jazz is thriving more than ever, especially in Denver,” said Rocco. “And KUVO is a big part of that.”
Copyright 2019 KUVO . To see more, visit KUVO