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MAKING A MARK: Church Street Jazz Series founder supporting students in Norfolk

Jay Lang is bringing jazz artists and fans together for nights of music and experiences for music students.

NORFOLK, Va. — Smooth sounds fill Norfolk art venues for the 6th annual Church Street Jazz Series. The event name is a nod to the present and the past.

"Church Street was like Black Wall Street here in Norfolk," said series founder Jay Lang. "That's where all of the black businesses were, the doctors, the lawyers, the restaurants, the mechanics, the accountants. That was our downtown."

Lang builds an impressive lineup of musicians to sell tickets to the series' concerts.

"If you like pop, you can still like jazz. If you're a gospel person, you can still listen to jazz," said Lang, "because they all have elements of jazz in them."

But Lang said the best seats in the concert series are occupied by local students.

Through the H. J. Lang Foundation, Lang's nonprofit, middle and high school students take classes and workshops hosted by jazz artists and meet industry leaders. Proceeds from concert ticket sales and donations go to the foundation. And at each concert, the nonprofit surprises one student with a brand-new instrument. 

Lang said he has a heart for every musician in the making like music students Jayda Watson and Mario Parker at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk.

"Me and other musical students, how we come together as one, it's so beautiful," said Watson.

"When you listen to music, you feel it. When you feel music, you genuinely feel joy," said Parker, who was also one of the recipients of a new instrument during the Church Street Jazz Series.

Lang donated a handful of gently-used instruments to Booker T. Washington's music program in November.

Lang said he hopes to continue the jazz series for years to come because opening the doors to each show means opening doors for the next generation of artists.

"I don't want to see a kid not be able to expand their musical horizons, grow their craft, and add to the world of music," said Lang.

The next concert in the Church Street Jazz Series is Saturday, Jan. 8 at 8 p.m., at the Attucks Theatre in Norfolk. It features jazz and R&B group 'Pieces of a Dream.' Sentara will also offer COVID-19 vaccines at the event.

Tickets start at $45 and can be purchased through the Church Street Jazz Series website.

To donate directly to Lang's nonprofit, visit the H. J. Lang Foundation website.

Author's Note: The video below is on file from Nov. 18, 2021.