Two Young Musicians, Almost Too Good for Their Age

Garry Berman
14 min readJun 2


Student jazz musicians Eva Wesley and Evelyn Yosmali, with renowned music educators Joan Chamorro and Isidore Rudnick.

How interesting life can be whenever serendipity intervenes to take us off a planned path, leading to an unexpected discovery.

That’s what happened in Cincinnati recently; I was there as a guest of the CPS (Cincinnati Public Schools) Jazz Academy, created and led by Dr. Isidore Rudnick, for its third International Jazz Festival.

The guest band this year was the Sant Andreu Dixieland Band, all the way from Barcelona, led by the Sant Andreu Jazz Band founder and director Joan Chamorro, returning the visit Rudnick and several of his students from the jazz academy paid last September to the SAJB’s annual Jazzing Festival.

Guest Chamorro with Rudnick and the Jazz Academy orchestra (Photo: Tom Porter).

The Cincinnati festival’s purpose is to present that city’s aspiring, school-age musicians of the CPS Jazz Academy in a concert, allowing them to exhibit their blossoming jazz skills, and, even more importantly, their potential. Over 120 public school kids participate; most are from underprivileged regions of the city, so the academy and its annual festival provide an after-school outlet for them to discover and pursue their musical interests in jazz.

As is the case with just about any organized program such as this, some individuals are bound to rise to the top in prominence, due to their impressive talents. The two young musicians who did so on this festival weekend in May were vibraphonist Evelyn Yosmali, and violinist Eva Wesley. Both are twelve years old, are good friends, and have the brightest of futures in music, should they decide to pursue it.

Each is already an outstanding musician, and as they continue to improve, we can anticipate how they will sound in just another few short years.

Evelyn at rehearsal.

Evelyn joined jazz academy October 2020, after Rudnick placed a call-out to band directors in the district, looking for a pianist for the jazz academy.

As she explains, “Dr. Rudnick called the music teacher at my school, Mr. Barfield and my mom and said, ‘your daughter should play in the jazz academy, because she’s really good, and my mom said, ‘why don’t you ask her,’ so we got on a Google meet, and that’s kind of how it started.”

Evelyn admits that jazz was still an unfamiliar genre to her when she joined the academy. “Yeah, it was new to me, I didn’t really have much experience because I started on classical piano. And that was all that I new how to play. When I joined the jazz academy, it was kind of eye-opening, and introduced me to another, just completely different genre. I had never really heard it except in the background of a movie or something like that. So I didn’t really have that much experience with jazz until I got a chance to play it more and listen to it, and the more that I listened, the more that I played, and listened to other people play, it made it a lot easier to understand and kind of connect to it.”

She played piano for her first year and a half at the jazz academy. “There was a new pianist who came in, Frankie McHenry, so we were trading off pianos — once in a while I’d get the keyboard and he’d get the piano, so there was a little competition for grand piano. I also wanted to play more. So my mom and Dr. Rudnick thought it would be a good idea for me to try the vibraphone, because the vibes have the same basic key layout as a piano, so it would be really easy to pick up. And I did pick it up really quick.”

A good deal of Evelyn’s whirlwind jazz education has come from studying recordings of some of the greats, such as Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson. “I had been playing vibes only half a year before we went to Spain,” she adds.

Her brother Wolfie joined the academy after last year’s jazz academy concert. He decided to give bass a try, and six months later was in Spain with Evelyn and others from the academy, to play with the SAJB. It was the first time the students from both projects met and played together. The SAJB is world-renowned for its 17-year history of producing jazz musicians and singers with musical skills years beyond their young ages (the Dixieland band visiting Cincinnati is one of several smaller off-shoot combos of the SAJB big band).

In Barcelona, Evelyn and her fellow Jazz Academy musicians unite with the SAJB at Jazzing Fest. (photo by Isabel van der Ven).

Evelyn and all of her fellow academy students had already become familiar with the SAJB and its reputation even before visiting Barcelona for Jazzing. “Dr. Rudnick had shown us and talked about them at, like, almost every single rehearsal. ‘Sant Andreu jazz band! They are amazing! You’ve gotta meet them and one of these days we’re gonna take some people over there!’ My mom showed me some of their videos, too.”

(3) CPS Middle School Jazz Combo Performs at the Jazzing Festival 2022 in Barcelona — YouTube

She makes it a point to mention her friend. “We also have a violinist in our group, Eva…she’s a friend of mine, too. We met in jazz academy, and she is super good at soloing.”

Eva’s history with music stretches back to when she was a mere toddler. “I technically started when I was five, pretty much just learning to finally play some songs, but when I was two, that’s when I started to learn more technique.”

Two years old?

Her mother, Betsy Jo, explained, “I’m a violinist, too, so I taught her how to hold the bow, hold the violin…”

Eva getting an early start with her musical education.

Eva’s formal training centered on classical music, which somehow seems to be the route piano and violin teachers set for their young students, apparently without consideration that kids could just as easily — and maybe even more enthusiastically — embrace other genres, including jazz.

Betsy Jo explains, “Her school music teacher recommended her to be evaluated for giftedness in music, which resulted in her having a video audition before a panel, in which Dr. Rudnick was a part. He called us that night to ask her to be part of the jazz academy. That was spring of 2021. In fall of 2022, he pulled her into a smaller advanced combo group of junior high students.”

With 2023 only halfway through, Evelyn and Eva have already found themselves with opportunities to shine at a number of musical events, separately and together.

For Eva, both classical and jazz have continued to comprise her growing repertoire. Among her list of accomplishments, she was concertmistress in the North Cincinnati Youth Senior Orchestra and is now with the Cincinnati Junior Strings.

In February, she took part in The Julia Bartels Concerto Competition. “It was a competition that my private teacher helped me work on.” She had competed there a few times before Covid hit. “When it came back up this year, I decided to do it again, where I tried playing all three movements of [the Rieding Violin Concerto in B Minor], and I won first place for one of the movements [Movement 3], so I got to play that with an orchestra in a concert hall.”

A brief video clip of the performance:


And this is a video audition for a summer music camp at Sewanee Music Festival. The piece is Haydn’s Concerto in G Major:


Now, however, jazz has become the next musical genre in which she is immersing herself.

“When I was first introduced to it,” she says, “I thought it was a great opportunity, and I was pretty excited to do it. It was a little bit unusual for me, definitely nothing like what I was used to, and honestly it took a little more than a year to fully grasp the full concept of it…I thought it was pretty decent at first, but then, not until I really started to get more used to it that I really started to like it.”

She says learning the ways of playing jazz violin, while it may have been unfamiliar, wasn’t a great cause for concern. “It wasn’t much of a problem, I think it just took more — like the feel, and the improvisation, ‘cause I was not confident with my improvising when I first started jazz.

“I’ve been listening to [jazz violinists] Zach Brock and Stuff Smith. I’ve also been studying a bit of the strum-bowing technique Tracy Silverman uses, to help apply it to my future jazz solos. My private teacher has taken a few lessons from him before as well. Another technique I’ve been attempting to apply to my solos is double stops, which has been a bit of a challenge since jazz is also focused on the chords, not just the notes. It’s highly unusual for a classical violin player to play off the chords…”

Betsy Jo adds, “Although Eva learned classical violin first, she was ear trained from the beginning through the Suzuki Method, which sounds similar to how Joan Chamorro teaches. Since she was very young, she could play by ear and a big part of her practicing is listening to her pieces. That has helped her tremendously with improvising in jazz.”

As for vibes specialist Evelyn, a tremendous opportunity came her way this year at a concert featuring vibraphonist Cary Kocher and his group, titled “A Toast to Nat ‘King’ Cole,’ with bassist Paul Keller, pianist Phil DeGreg, and drummer John Taylor.

Her mother Amy explains, “Mr. Keller, Mr. Kocher, and John Taylor had conducted a workshop earlier that afternoon with her combo, and had asked for her (and the drummer from her combo) to open with them that evening — to perform on stage on short notice with amazing, world-renowned jazz professionals…what a priceless experience, and all thanks to Dr Rudnick and the supporters from our community.”

Evelyn was more than up to the challenge, trading eights with Kocher, whose expressions as she soloed reflected his approval.

Evelyn Duet — OneDrive (

Here’s Dr. Rudnick’s jazz combo rehearsing for the Lionel Hampton National Jazz Festival Competition, held in Moscow, Idaho in April. Eva, with her back to us, swings on her solo for ‘Sweet Georgia Brown.’ You can spot Evelyn on vibes in the background:


Rudnick says of his violinist, “Eva has a unique ability to take her classical technique and mold it to create the most swinging jazz phrasing I have heard from a young student. She has an innate feel for the blues that gives her improvisations a nuanced authenticity that is hard to achieve at such a young age. She has the talent and drive to become a world class musician.”

The final results for the group at the competition are impressive:

Instrumental Combos

Winner — HMS Jazz Band Combo I
Director: Angela Pence
School: Hamilton Middle School
Location: Seattle, WA

Runner up — CPS Junior High Jazz Combo
Director: Isidore Rudnick
School: Cincinnati Public Schools
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Instrumental Solos

Winner — Eva Wesley
Director: Isidore Rudnick
School: Cincinnati Public Schools
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Runner up — Evelyn Yosmali
Director: Isidore Rudnick
School: Cincinnati Public Schools
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Proud mom Betty Jo exclaimed at the time, “What an amazing experience for her and all of these amazing kids from Cincinnati Public Schools!”

At the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival (l. to r.): Ruby Lewis (Alto Sax), Tia Watkins (Flute), Evelyn Yosmali (Vibraphone), Annie McHenry, Eva Wesley (Violin).

Amy Yosmali concurs. “Dr. Rudnick has given Evelyn some really amazing opportunities. We came off having gone to Idaho, but the week prior to that, there was an amazing master class that she was able to participate in.”

In Rudnick’s words, “Evelyn has this ability to take her improvisations to great heights when she is in situations where she is inspired. She is at her absolute best when she can visualize a tangible musical goal to work towards. She brings a potent combination of abundant musicality, fierce determination and sharp wit to her musical endeavors.”

Evelyn also brings her game face when she gets deep into one of her solos on vibes, but she assures us that, appearances to the contrary, she really is enjoying herself. “I and many others, I feel, suffer from that ‘serious face’, you know — I’ll get in the zone, and I’ll be playing and soloing, and everything around just kind of disappears, and its just me and my vibes, but I look so serious like I’m mad! I’m not angry, I’m not bored, I’m not mad, I’m just in the zone!”

A pre-concert performance in the lobby of the Aronoff Center.

The arrival of the SAJB Dixieland Band offered still more opportunities for all of the musicians to meet, jam, and hang out — with jazz being their unshakeable connection.

The SAJB Dixieland Band — Back row (l. to r.): Jordi Herrera (double bass), Nils Theuns (drums), Pau Garcia (piano), Asier Vasquez (guitar), Joan Chamorro. Front row: Marti Costalago (trumpet), Luc Martin(trombone), Pere Company (sax), Sander Theuns (sax).

Evelyn especially enjoyed the jam sessions. “Doing jam sessions with them has made me more comfortable kind of just playing new songs, especially ones that I’ve never heard of before, ’cause they have a bigger repertoire and vocabulary of just songs or phrases, and by listening to them or just having a song that they’re playing on repeat, I can pick up on that, and I learn more and I can incorporate that in solos, or if I’m doing a jam session with other people, I can play those songs too.”

Eva takes a solo at the jam session for Jazz Academy and SAJB musicians together.

Eva agrees. “It was really great, I had a lot of fun, especially listening to [the guests] ’cause all of their musicians were really good. I had a really good time at the jam session. It was so fun.”

The Friday afternoon jam session.

She also offers a more specific description of the types of jazz she enjoys. “I’d say I personally enjoy jazz ballads or swing beats the most. My favorite tune is ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I’ve also been given the opportunity by my jazz instructor, Dr. Rudnick to do some jazz vocalization as well. I have been taking hour-long voice lessons once a week for the past year, but sadly won’t have the time to do them the next. I love singing like Ella Fitzgerald and she’s probably my favorite jazz vocalist of all time. Singing is my favorite thing to do other than play violin. It’s an instrument where you can make any note come to life while barely even thinking about it. It definitely helps reveal my deepest passion and love for all music.”

Evelyn chats with Isidore Rudnick and Joan Chamorro at rehearsal.

As two of the several host families for the SAJB kids, The Yosmali family hosted bassist Jordi Herrera and saxophonist Pere Company. The Wesleys hosted pianist Pau Garcia.

As Amy reports, “We as host parents were all talking about a phenomenon had been going on in all of our homes. Immediately on the first night of their arrival, our guests at our house, we were up for quite a while because they took out their instruments and started to play, and Evelyn rolled out our very ancient vibraphone which needs to be replaced, and she and Wolfie — first night, we were in the house only about an hour and were having our own mini jam session. And this happened every single night in our household, even after coming home from the concert on Saturday night. The other parents said the same things were happening at their houses. Yesterday, we were talking about keeping the Spain group together at one house, we kind of figured we’d end up with an awesome jam session, which we did!

“And it was far more fun than Friday’s because Friday’s was more formal. Last night’s was relaxed and it was just really cool seeing the trumpet player and Marti and Ben, our trumpet player, seeing them trade off, it was a lot of fun.”

Eva, comparing the personal effect jazz has on her moods compared to classical music, says, “I’d say when it comes to liking playing classical music, it always depends on my mood. Sometimes it can be fun and others tiring, especially when focusing on a very complicated piece for an upcoming competition or recital. But for jazz, it’s much, much different. Jazz grasps more of a beat or rhythm that makes you want to do nothing but dance and play constantly. To tap your foot and Bob your head. The best part for me is improvisation. As it turns out, most people always figure I have a plan for improvising of something I’m going to play ahead of time. The truth is, I never do and never have. Not once. Every single time it flows from the heart and speak the language of jazz. The feels change depending on my mood as well.”

When Evelyn is asked if she plans to continue playing vibes — which looks to be a sure thing at the moment — she replies with a somewhat surprising answer, but one of refreshing self-awareness and perspective for her age: “Maybe,” she says. “I might just go with the flow, and just take whatever comes and opens up. Right now, the possibilities are endless. I have many other hobbies that I wouldn’t mind pursuing also. But this will always probably be one of the major options for me.”

Music lovers who are becoming familiar with Evelyn’s and Eva’s talents no doubt hope that the girls — as well as the other young musicians of the CPS Jazz Academy — will continue their path through the jazz world for a long time to come.

Until next time…

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You can read my previous articles related to the Sant Andreu Jazz Band and other jazz topics at the links below, or at the “Garry’s Blog” page on the website And feel free to visit or join the Facebook group Friends of Sant Andreu Jazz Band (of which I am co-founder and administrator).

“A Film About Kids and Music: Ten Years Later”

“Kindred Spirits: How Joan Chamorro and Isidore Rudnick Teach Jazz to Kids”

“The Compelling Music of Elia Bastida and Carolina Alabau”

Marching to a Different Bassist: The Music of Magali Datzira” | by Garry Berman | Medium

“The SAJB’s Koldo Munne Steps into the Jazz Spotlight”

“A Tale of Two Albas”

“How a Kids Band in Barcelona Rekindled My Love of Jazz”

“Jan Domenech’s New Chapter as a Jazz Musician”

“Joan Chamorro and the SAJB: Past, Present, and Future”

“Josep Traver: Guitarist of All Trades”

“When American Jazz Pros Meet Spanish Jazz Kids”

“Claudia Rostey: The Life of an 18-year-old Barcelona Jazz Trombonist”

“The Magic of the Voice: The Singers of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band”

“Manhattan Transfer Co-founder Laurel Massé and Her Life in Music” | by Garry Berman | Medium

“Jobim is Alive and Well in Barcelona”

“Did Someone Say Anastasia Ivanova?”

“Struck by (musical) Lightning”

A Musical Milestone at Carnegie Hall (on January 16, 1938) | by Garry Berman | Medium



Garry Berman

Pop Culture historian, Freelance Writer, Author, specializing in American comedy history in films, radio, and TV. Beatles and jazz enthusiast, animal lover.