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Starbucks “Hot Java Cool Jazz” celebrates its 27th year supporting school music

Starbucks “Hot Java Cool Jazz” celebrates its 27th year  supporting school music

April 20 - 2024

Coffee Geography Magazine


Every year, Starbucks organizes a fun-filled jazz music festival featuring some of the most promising teen musicians. The benefit concert, now in its 27th year, has raised more than $1 million for high-school jazz programs in Washington State. 

Long before Darin Faul was a high school jazz teacher at Mountlake Terrace High School, north of Seattle, he was a high school student who had the opportunity to visit Europe with a touring concert band.

At a music hall in Florence, Italy, he played the trumpet on an arrangement of “Amazing Grace.” He remembers getting back to the bus, awestruck by the experience, and telling one of his friends, “I want to be a musician. I want to stay engaged with this.” 

For Faul, that trip is a foundational memory, a moment that confirmed to him the value of the arts. It’s something he hopes his students – and the audience – also get to fully experience when they take part in the 27th Annual Starbucks Hot Java Cool Jazz at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle.

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“The arts express things, that if we couldn’t express them with words,” says Faul, who’s taught at Mountlake Terrace High School for 26 years. “we sing about it, or play about it, or draw about it, or sculpt about it. 

“When I experience a great piece of art, I become tremendously reflective. I feel no need to talk. I feel knocked over by it. I feel changed because of it.” 

“Hot Java Cool Jazz” is a benefit concert featuring five of the top high-school jazz programs in the state performing in a non-competitive format. This year’s lineup, selected by a panel which included local music professionals, also includes student bands representing Edmonds-Woodway, Garfield, Mount Si and Roosevelt high schools.

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One hundred percent of proceeds from ticket sales go back to participating schools. Since its inception in 1995, Hot Java Cool Jazz has raised more than $1 million for local high school jazz programs. 

This year’s benefit concert comes at a time when school districts across the country are struggling to fund the arts, as administrators deal with budget shortfalls and declining enrollment in public schools. The result? Music classes are being cut, feeder programs are threatened and students who might have found a home in music have fewer options.

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“There’s a lot of language in education around social and emotional learning and the value and importance of belonging,” says Hannah Mowry, who directs jazz at Roosevelt. “It’s hard to be a kid. It’s hard to be a teenager. You’re so vulnerable when you’re a kid. There has to be an outlet for some of those experiences and those hard feelings. “If we’re trying to create places in schools for kids to belong and to give kids tools to be in touch with their social, emotional selves, you must put value in the arts.”

For Faul, at Mountlake Terrace, the value of music is personal. Not only has he guided students in his community for over two decades, he’s teaching his own children. One son played at Hot Java Cool Jazz several years ago; his daughter will play this year. Some families do sports together. Faul has a family band. 

“Support artists,” Faul says. “Take your kids to see art and talk about it. If you have a 5th-grade student who’s learning the trombone, rent two. Why not? It’s never too old to do this. You’ll stay engaged in an activity with your kid, forever.”