Joe's Jazz Camp offers a week of jazz workshops and classes for young players

joe's jazz camp
Joe's Jazz Camp takes place June 5-10 at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta. (Courtesy of Joe Gransden)

Jazz does not discriminate by age, and to help nurture a love of jazz among younger players, Joe’s Jazz Camp returns after a two-year hiatus. Its executive producer, Joe Gransden, is among Atlanta’s most celebrated jazz musicians. The trumpeter and singer began playing at a very young age in the ensembles of Tommy Dorsey, Barry White, Aretha Franklin and The Temptations, among others. His 16-piece big band has toured and played in storied venues such as the Blue Note and has been based here in Atlanta since 2006. Joe’s week of jazz workshops and performance opportunities takes place at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, June 5-10, with registration open throughout May. He joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to tell how jazz-curious kids can level up their musicianship at camp this summer. 

A Chet Baker record first gave Gransden his jazz fever, which he received at the tender age of 11. “I put it on the record player and I was hooked. There was no turning back at that point,” he said. 

Now, himself a vocalist and trumpet player like Baker, Gransden spreads the love of jazz through a summer program that brings kids opportunities to learn about jazz history and theory, hone their instrumental chops, improvise, play in ensembles of several sizes and even sit in on jams with jazz virtuosos.

“This Joe’s Jazz Camp that we’ve put together is such a thrill for so many young students and also for the teachers; it’s pretty intensive,” said Gransden. “You watch [the kids] on Sunday, come in a little bit nervous — excited for the week, but a little bit nervous. They have all these big, tall people around them that are professionals in their field. And then by Tuesday, they start to come out of their shell a little bit, and by Wednesday, they can’t wait.”

The camp specifically seeks students ages 13 to 19, but Gransden attested they’ve accepted applicants as young as 10 with exceptional ability. But for prospective applicants to Joe’s Jazz Camp, enthusiasm is most important. “There is some level of musicianship that’s required, probably, to get the most out of this camp. If there was a student just starting out that wanted to be a part of it, there’s room for that student, too,” said Gransden. “We have a whole other section of the campus that deals with the very beginnings, the very basics of jazz music.”

Though any student can learn about jazz from books, records and private study, Gransden assures there’s nothing like playing and improvising in a real band. When he went to jazz camp as a kid, he recalled: “The teacher had the band play the blues …  I remember I played a certain combination of those notes in a certain way that swung, maybe, a little bit. I lost my mind. I was so excited when I got in the car, and my father picked me up. The first thing I said — ‘Oh my God, Dad, I improvised. I made something up.’ It was so exciting.”

Enrollment at Joe’s Jazz Camp is open now through May, and the camp’s programs take place June 5-10 at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta. More information can be found at There is a donate page on the website if you would like to sponsor a student for the week or give towards student scholarships.