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Monache students interview band legend Gerald Wilson
Three Monache High School student interns participated in documenting the life of a living legend — Gerald Wilson.
The three students, Jessica Emigdio, Albertina Rodriguez and Cresenio Rodriguez, all seniors at Monache High School, chronicled Wilson’s life through the Big Band Swing years of the ’30s and ’40s and the Big Band Jazz of the ’60s through the present.
The students participated in all phases of the production, including planning, scripting, sound, lighting, video and still photography during a two-hour interview. In addition, they also interviewed Wilson’s wife, Josephina.
Wilson began his career in 1937, writing, arranging and directing for Jimmy Lunceford, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Nancy Wilson and more.
He also taught arranging and conducting at University California Los Angeles and California State University Northridge, is Conductor Emeritus for the Monterey Jazz Festival, and he wrote and conducted ‘Monterey Mood’ — the festival’s theme.
At the age of 94, Wilson told the students he is considering retiring soon, and as they wrapped the shoot, he offered each one of them an autographed copy of his latest CD ‘Legacy.’
“It was pretty exciting to get to meet someone like that — a person in that industry who is still alive and can personally tell us his story,” said Cresencio Rodriguez.
Prior to the assignment, Cresencio Rodriguez said he did not know who Gerald Wilson was but meeting him is something he will never forget.
“The actual part when we got to meet him, that stands out the most,” Cresencio Rodriguez said. “He gave us advice too — to never give up and that at our young age, to do all we can becasue it will pay off when we are older.”
Albertina Rodriguez and Emigdio also admitted to not knowing who Wilson was until they researched him.
“It was really informative and very interesting,” Emigdio said. “He also gave us a promotional CD when we were done. He and his wife were very sweet, nice and helpful.”
Albertina Rodriguez agreed.
“The experience we had — to actually do some hands on work — was wonderful,” she said. “I was in charge of photography and this really opened my eyes to what I want to do.”
The Gerald Wilson interview is one of a four-part series on “Living Legends” being produced by SVP/Willmation for PBS.
Producer Maurice Ecung and videographer Will Lloyd said the students were outstanding young ambassadors for Porterville and the Porterville Unified School District and will receive full production credits for their participation in the project.