About AMP Jazz

The American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra is a nationally recognized leader in educating 7th -12th grade students in American Art Music – Jazz. We are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit (parent organization is the Pacific Crest Sinfonietta) and our tax ID is #20-0459975.

Students in this magnet school program are recruited from culturally diverse backgrounds throughout the Portland, Oregon metropolitan region. The program’s goal is not only to perform the music of American culture (including, but not limited to Ellington, Basie, Coltrane, Armstrong and Davis) but also to imbue its finest qualities in the representative lives of the students, their families and the community.

tharamemoryUnder the direction of acclaimed Jazz Trumpeter Thara Memory, the Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra regularly competes in – and wins – student competitions across the country, including The Monterey Jazz FestivalEssentially Ellington at Lincoln CenterThe Lionel Hampton Jazz FestivalSwing Central at the Savannah Music Festival, and many more.

American Music Program students leave High School with advanced performance skills and a deep understanding of the jazz art form.  This pre-professional training opens the door to social, cultural and global identification and allows students to experience a more meaningful connection between their lives, community, school and the world.

Because of their rigorous training, American Music Program students often go on to receive scholarships to attend the country’s top music colleges, such as The Juilliard SchoolBerklee College of MusicManhattan School of MusicThe New School for JazzOberlin College Conservatory, and others.

Director

Thara Memory at Gerding Theater

Photo courtesy of John Rudoff, Oregon Music News. All rights reserved.

Thara John Memory, trumpeter, conductor, educator and composer, was born in 1948 in Tampa, Florida. There his early exposure to Cuban, African and European music formed his musical palette.

Thara began playing the trumpet professionally at age 11.  Since moving to the Northwest in 1970, Portland has served as home base for his notable and widely recognized career as a jazz performer. The Willamette Week said, “In each jazz community – and Portland has a sizeable one – there are stars. Memory is one that shines brightest.” Thara has performed with many jazz and rhythm and blues legends including Eddie Harris,

Arturo Sandoval, Charlie Rouse, Dizzy Gillespie, Chuck Israel, Lou Rawls, Benny Maupin, Eddie Henderson, Natalie Cole, Fred Wesley and the Master Sounds, The Four Tops, Pleasure, The Leroy Vinegar Quartet, The Depriest Project, Ravi Best, Urban Agnas, Brian Lynch, Scotty Barnhart, Javon Jackson, John Handy, Dennis Springer, Bernard Purdy, Ben Wolfe, Obo Addy, George Shaw… and the list continues.  Currently, he leads his own outstanding band, the Thara Memory Superband, and performs regularly with the Mel Brown Septet.

Thara is sought after as a studio musician, arranger and composer. His first personal CD, Juke Music is an original Southern blend of jazz, funk and world music. A long awaited second project, which promises an intermingling of jazz, soul and classical elements, is currently in progress. Examples of his musical range and versatility can be found in his many guest performances on the CDs of other artists. His sound can be  heard on recent releases by Stan Bock and Bernard Purdy, Patricia Demarest and Dennis Springer.

Although best known for his contributions to the Northwest jazz scene, Thara is a respected classical conductor and composer. He earned his B.A. in conducting and composition from Marylhurst University. His conducting talents have been showcased as associate conductor of the Marylhurst Symphony, as guest conductor of the Portland Festival Symphony and as guest conductor of the Grande Ronde Youth Symphony. In 2001, Thara conducted the Marylhurst Symphony in the premier performance of his original composition, Middle Passage, which was reviewed and acclaimed by The Oregonian. He currently conducts the Pacific Crest Sinfonietta, which performs several concerts annually in NE Portland.

Thara has been awarded NEA, OAC and RACC grants for his involvement in community arts projects. In 2005, he was the awarded the prestigious RACC Fellowship for the Performing Arts. He founded Portland’s Accelerated Music Program, which promotes opportunities for talented minority and at-risk youth to achieve excellence in music. In 1999 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Arts Foundation for his community service in music.

Thara holds a well-deserved reputation for excellence as a music educator. He has taught at Portland State University, Marylhurst University, Mt. Hood Community College, and Portland Community College. In 2003, Thara began as director of the jazz orchestra program for Portland’s Metropolitan Youth Symphony under music director Lajos Balogh. He directed the jazz program there for more than a year. Thara chaired the music program at Beaverton’s Arts and Communication Magnet Academy for four years. In 2005, his ACMA Jazz Orchestra won top honors at numerous regional and national events. In 2005, Thara founded the American Music Program.

Thara John Memory is a consummate performer whose repertoire spans both classical and contemporary music. He eschews categorization of music saying, “The principles of music are the same for Bach as they are for Ellington. Everyone, young and old, should have complete access to music making.”

Musicians 2015-2016

SAXOPHONE

Spencer Ebert

Saxophone

Spencer is a junior at Grant High School, and plays tenor and soprano saxophone in the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra, which he joined in summer 2015. He is also enrolled in advanced ensemble at the Alan Jones Academy of Music, and was previously a member of the Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra. He studies…

Shane Walz

Saxophone

Shane is a sophomore at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, WA and joined the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra in the fall of 2014. He currently plays alto and doubles on the flute and clarinet with the ensemble. At Battle Ground under the direction of Greg McKelvey he plays tenor, alto, and…

Sam Seacrist

Baritone Saxophone

Sam is a senior at Grant High School in Portland, Oregon, and this is his 6th year playing with the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra. Sam has been playing the baritone saxophone for six years, but plays several other instruments as well: piano, clarinet, alto and soprano saxophone, flute and ukelele. He has also…

Quinlan McIntire

Tenor Saxophone

Quinlan is a senior at Grant High School and has played tenor saxophone with the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra since the fall of 2012. Quin plays the baritone saxophone at Grant High School. He is also enrolled in Advanced Ensemble at the Alan Jones Academy of Music. Quin previously attended Cleveland High School…

Max Roark

Tenor Saxophone

Max is a senior at Lincoln High School in Portland, and joined the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra in January of 2013. He currently plays alto saxophone with the ensemble, and has also played tenor and baritone saxophones in past years. He doubles on clarinet and flute. At Lincoln Max plays tenor saxophone in…

TRUMPET

Tyler Barnes

Trumpet

Tyler is a sophomore at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, WA, and plays trumpet in the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra. He currently also plays in the Battle Ground High School Jazz Band. This is his third year playing with AMP.

Steve Montecucco

Trumpet

Steve is a senior at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, WA, and plays trumpet in the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra. This is his 4th year playing in AMP.  He also currently plays in the Battle Ground High School Advanced Jazz Band and the jazz combo there.  He earlier played lead trumpet…

Martin Mendez

Trumpet

Erik Reinhardt

Trumpet

Erik is a junior at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, WA, and plays trumpet in the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra. He has played with AMP since Spring, 2014.

TROMBONE

Olivia Gadberry

Trombone

Olivia is a sophomore at Grant High School in Portland, Oregon and this is her second year playing trombone in the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra (since Fall, 2014). She also plays trombone in the jazz band at Grant. Olivia started playing clarinet in the 3rd grade, before switching briefly to trumpet, and…

Ainslie Cromar

Trombone

Ainslie is a sophomore at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, WA, where she currently plays in the Advanced Jazz Band and has played with the wind ensemble. She began playing trombone when she attended middle school at Tukes Valley Middle School in Battle Ground. During her 8th grade year at Tukes Valley, Ainslie…

Adriana Wagner

Trombone

Adriana is a junior at Roosevelt High School in Portland, OR, and plays trombone for the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra.

PIANO

Josh Peltz

Piano

Josh is a senior at Jesuit High School in Portland, OR. This is his fourth year playing with the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra. He has been playing the piano for 68years and also enjoys playing the guitar and singing. Josh is also a member of Jesuit’s Mixed Choir, where he both sings and…

BASS

Finnegan Jones

Finnegan Jones, a sophomore at Grant High School, has played upright bass since the fall of 2012 and joined the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra during the fall of 2015. For the past two years he has been playing upright bass in a combo under the instruction of Derek Sims at the Alan Jones…

DRUMS

Jordan Goldblatt

Drums

Jordan is a sophomore at Wilson High School in Portland, and plays drums in the American Music Program’s Pacific Crest Orchestra. He has been playing the drums for eight years, and this is his fourth year playing with AMP. He has also plays in a combo at the Alan Jones Academy of Music, and has…

Dominick Branch

Drums

Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra Alumni by class, name and college.

Class of 2016
Quinlan McIntire, saxophone
Frost School of Music at University of Miami, Miami, FL
Steve Montecucco, trumpet
Josh Peltz, piano
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
Max Roark, saxophone
Eastman School of Music at University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Sam Seacrist, saxophone

Class of 2015
Shawn Ball, saxophone
University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO
Charles Milton Brown III, Piano
Portland State University, Portland, OR
Colescott Rubin, Bass
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
Mattias Tyni, Trumpet
Clark College, Vancouver, WA

Class of 2014
Gil Bolster, Trombone
DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Ciaran Fontenot, Bass
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
Kyle Zimmerman, Saxophone
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA

Class of 2013
Noah Conrad, Trumpet
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
Aaron Reihs, Saxophone
Thornton School of Music at University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Ben Seacrist, Trumpet
The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, New York, NY

Class of 2012
Marty Arrigotti, Guitar
William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ
Stanley Mathabane, Saxophone
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Cary Miga, Bass
Portland State University, Portland, OR
Robin Seitz, Trumpet
William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ

Class of 2011
Kama Bell, Saxophone
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
Austin Casey, Trumpet
Hayden Conrad, Saxophone
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Ian Garner, Trombone
Clark College, Vancouver, WA
Louie Leager, Bass
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Ashton Summers, Trombone
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Class of 2010
Kelly Ryan Campbell, Trombone
United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT
Ted Case, Piano
Thornton School of Music at University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Hannah Dexter, Bass
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Noah Hocker, Trumpet
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Evan Jiroudek, Drums
California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
Andrew Olson, Alto Saxophone
The Juilliard School, New York, NY
Connor O’Shea, Guitar
Thornton School of Music at University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

Class of 2009
Jacob French, Guitar
California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
Nicole Glover, Tenor Saxophone
William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ
Elliot Hocker, Guitar
California College of Ayurveda, Grass Valley, CA
Aaron Johnson, Tenor Saxophone
Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY
Alex Milsted, Tenor Saxophone
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
Lahiru Ranasinghe, Alto Saxophone
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Patrick Sargent, Alto Saxophone
New York University, New York, NY
Duncan Standish, Drums
Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH
Spencer Stewart, Bass
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA

Class of 2008
Ian Christensen, Tenor Saxophone
The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, New York, NY
Nick Hamel, Guitar
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Blake Martin, Trumpet
Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY
Javier Nero, Trombone
The Juilliard School, New York, NY
Hailey Niswanger, Alto Saxophone
Berklee College Of Music, Boston, MA

Links to other notable students of Mr. Memory:
Esperanza Spalding, Grammy Award winning bassist/vocalist/composer/educator
Patrick Lamb, Grammy-nominated saxophonist
John Nastos, saxophonist/composer/band leader

FAQ's

What should students know before entering the program?

  1. It takes extreme dedication to play in the orchestra. All of the students take private lessons and practice many hours each day. In addition, students get together on their own time for sectionals and additional practices in addition to the regular orchestra rehearsals. This is a band for students with a burning desire to play jazz at the highest level, and the dedication to do what it takes to get there.
  2. Parent participation is essential, both emotionally and financially. Logistical issues with transportation need to be worked out, and conflicts with other school commitments need to be addressed. Students may have to make difficult decisions in this regard as orchestra members are not allowed to miss more than 2 performances without being reassigned.
  3. The orchestra travels to festivals out of state regularly. There are additional logistics and costs to consider for these opportunities that are the responsibility of each student/family.
  4. There is at least one major fundraiser each year and parent participation is required.
    The payoff is a world class music education, more opportunities for highly competitive festivals and many more college scholarship opportunities. The hard work is well worth it for our musicians.

Why Study American Music?

Why is it that students today can’t name any American composers? If you ask kids “Who is Bessie Smith?” they often don’t know or wonder if that’s the woman who sewed our first flag. The American Music Program is focused on changing that. We have a treasure of American composers of jazz, but few kids know them. These great composers come from a generation that has already died, or soon will. We have a responsibility to keep this music alive – to teach a new generation about this music.

What are the goals of the American Music Program?

The American Music Program is a 501(c)(3) non-profit registered as the Pacific Crest Sinfonietta. Our tax ID# is 20-0459975. Students in the program can expect a first-rate music education. They will receive the highest level of training from many sources and have the opportunity to meet and learn from masters in the music world. Students will learn – and live – the importance of humility, cultural diversity, community responsibility and ethics. Students will receive an individually designed 10-point program plan for college, and will be well positioned to receive college scholarships.

When are rehearsals?

Rehearsals are currently held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 PM at a variety of locations while the group looks for a permanent practice location.