Our school’s playtime bell is a jazz riff

A quiet Gascon town each summer hosts the international Jazz in Marciac festival and it has created exciting new opportunities for pupils who attend the local school for jazz classes. Nick Inman finds out more

The school bell rings to mark the end of the lesson – but there is something odd. The Collège de Marciac pupils are released into the playground not to the sound of an impersonal ringing of a mechanical sonnerie but to a jazz riff by saxophonist Joe Henderson.

This, you might guess, is no ordinary school.

For 11 months of the year the Gers town of Marciac is a pleasant, uneventful place but in August it is transformed into a great jazz venue by the Jazz in Marciac international festival, which attracts top world performers to rural Gascony.

In 1993 it was decided not to let all this creative energy fizzle out over winter when it could be harnessed for young musicians, so the Atelier d’Initiation à la Musique de Jazz (AIMJ) started as a musical option available to collège pupils from ages 11 to 15.

“Marciac is not a conservatory or a music school,” said principal, Bruno Nurisso “It is a normal state school offering the same teaching as any other but with the addition of a programme of music to stimulate creativity, sensitivity and the self-realisation of the ...

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