Art of Aging: Jazz musician wins Kimmel Center residency

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- 61-year-old Jawanza Kobie of Wilmington, Delaware was gifted with a love of music by his parents, attended Berklee College of Music, toured and composed jazz.

But as a young man with a family, he found that a career in music was too unpredictable.

"I like to think I came from a background of consistency," Kobie said. "I like to eat every day, and some days I was not eating."

He kept writing and playing, but Kobie also went to work as an engineer for SEPTA and kept at it for 33 years.

But eventually he realized, "I can't serve two masters. I had the time, I had the age. I left."

And when the Kimmel Center did a callout for its prestigious Jazz Residency program, Kobie submitted his music for a blind audition.

He won one of three coveted seats!

The panel of judges had no idea about his age or history.

Here he is writing music!" said Kimmel Center Producing Artistic Director Jay Wahl. "We're trying to shine a light on his talent that he's always had. We're trying to give him a platform ... to write new music, to take jazz forward. That's what it's about."

On Saturday afternoon, Kobie will present the world premiere of his work, "Bird Stories" during a concert at the Kimmel Center.

Working with a playwright, he composed the piece especially for children.

I'm "trying to introduce children to jazz, because I have a passion," said Kobie. "And I think teaching is no more than just sharing your passion."

"I think his desire to write music for kids in the next generation is a desire to keep music alive for them as it is always for him," said Wahl.

Now that Jawanza Kobie is finally living his dream, he has a word of advice for others of a certain age.

"Time's going to pass anyway," he said. "What are you going to do within the time? You can do nothing in the time or you can do something with the time. Do something with the time."
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