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Peekskill Jazz Legend to Lead Pro-Am Concert

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – Jazz Saxophonist Ray Blue has performed with students around the world, but this week he’ll be performing with some of Westchester’s best young musicians.

Blue, a Peekskill resident, will be performing with other professional musicians from across the area on Wednesday, Aug. 23 with a group of young music students as part of a series called the Pro-Am Ensemble.

“We bring in young people from high school and college and we do workshops and we develop a program for an open air concert,” Blue said.

The event is funded by Cross Cultural Connections, a non-profit organization created by Blue that works to foster a love of jazz music in young people around the world. The annual summer concert will be held on North Division Street starting at 7 p.m. and the street will be closed for music lovers to sit and enjoy the free show.

Blue has been conducting the Pro-Am concerts in Peekskill for four years but he’s been doing it for the last eight years in places like Iowa and Illinois and countries such as France, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Germany, France and Finland.

“For the past 11 years I’ve been going between the U.S. and Europe and Africa and China, performing and teaching and conducting workshops,” Blue said. “On several of the trips to Africa I went under the state department.”

Blue often instructs students through a translator and said students in each country are unique, such as those he instructed for six weeks at a music college at Beijing.

“In China, the students are very polite and quiet in class, but I need them to interact so part of the task is getting them to feel comfortable speaking in class.” Blue said.

In his most recent overseas trip in Finland this spring, he spent a week with jazz students and a big band doing African Jazz compositions.

“They have another way of introducing their young people to musical culture,” Blue said. “They start at a very young age. Most of them learn piano as the primary instrument even before they go into children’s instruments.”

The group he’ll be performing with in Peekskill comes from across the Hudson Valley and beyond, including students from Lakeland, Ossining and Scarsdale, but will definitely feature hometown talent.

“We have two drummers from Peekskill,” Blue said.

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