URI professor Emmett Goods brings jazz expertise to local middle school

‘This is how we pass music forward,’ Goods says of working with Broad Rock Middle School students

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 24, 2022 – Before sharing the stage with jazz and soul greats like Billy Taylor, Eddie Harris, and Aretha Franklin, University of Rhode Island Music Professor Emmett Goods learned the musical ropes in a sixth-grade band back in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Earlier this month, Goods reconnected with his sixth-grade-self by working with a group of budding musicians at Broad Rock Middle School in South Kingstown. Goods, a renowned jazz trombonist, served as emcee for a concert played by the school’s 40-piece jazz band, while he and a group of URI jazz students sat in with the group. 

Sixth-grader Taylor Jones of the Broad Rock Jazz Band readies to play the trombone.

“It was a great bunch of students—very energetic and a lot of fun to work with,” Goods said. “So many of the students that we have in our program have come through the middle school, so it’s great to give back like this. I literally thought about myself in sixth grade, when I played the drum set for the first time. And that’s really what music is about—those moments that you remember forever.”

The concert, held on March 8, followed a format that Goods uses for many URI jazz concerts. As the band ran through its setlist, Goods provided context for where and how the pieces fit into jazz history. 

“They played a Scott Joplin piece, which we would consider to be early jazz, and we talked about the significance of that,” Goods shared as an example. “They played a couple of different variations of the blues, and we talked about the significance of that. A couple of the guitarists did ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and we talked about how that still connects to jazz although we think of it as rock and roll.”

Along the way, Goods grabbed his trombone and played a few numbers with the middle school students—along with URI students Andrew Dyson on drums, Jude LaRoche on tenor sax, Eric Fay-Wolfe and Mason Tucker on piano, and Johnny Santini on bass. 

Jennifer Collins, musical director at Broad Rock, said it was an invaluable experience for her students. 

“We all learned so much from him, myself included,” Collins said. “[Dr. Goods] is an incredible jazz artist, having performed with other great jazz artists, and yet he could meet our 11- and 12-year-olds where they are, and connect with them. That is a rare and wonderful gift. Hopefully some of them will end up at URI in the future. Surely you could not find a finer URI jazz ambassador than Dr. Goods!”

Collins’ students were impressed, too. 

“I thought Jazz Band would be fun to do just for sixth grade, but after hearing Dr. Goods, I want to continue to play jazz my whole life long,” said a young saxophone player and Broad Rock student named Will. 

“Dr. Goods is an inspirational man,” added Maddy, a percussionist. “If someone asked me what was the best part of sixth grade, I’d say Jazz Band with Dr. Goods.” 

For Goods, the experience was all part of what he views as his job as both a musician and educator. 

“I just felt like it was a unique opportunity for me to give back,” he said. “It was also great to my students, to show them what community engagement is about. This is how we pass this music forward.”

Goods hopes events like this will help to keep the pipeline open for URI’s next generation of music students.