of Cool

stArt of Cool (SOC), first launched in June 2014, is a program that provides music education for students interested in learning more about the performance and fundamentals of jazz. Initially founded to provide free music instruction to at-risk youth living in Durham, the program continues to expand it’s accessibility to children of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of  experience. The following activities are available through the SOC program: The Durham Arts Council CAPS Program (Workshops and performances at various Durham Public Schools), The stArt of Cool Summer Jazz Camp (1-week of private and group instruction, lyric composition, and ensemble playing), The stArt of Cool Youth AllStars (available for private events).

The mission of soc is to introduce students to jazz music through:

  1. Private Lessons
  2. Jazz Theory/Improvisation Classes
  3. Small group rehearsals
  4. Jam sessions
  5. Interactions with professional musicians
  6. Introduction to aspects of the business of music
  7. Concert performances


In tandem with Global Scholars Academy, the Durham Community, and local musicians, the Art of Cool (AOC) launched The stArt of Cool Education Program in the form of a 5-day long Camp during the summer of 2014. The stArt of Cool introduced twenty-three 3rd-7th grade scholars to the fundamentals of jazz performance.

Under the directorship of trumpeter Al Strong, associate professor at Saint Augustine’s University and adjunct professor at the widely acclaimed North Carolina Central University Jazz Studies program, the program strives to inspire music and cultural education experiences which foster a profound appreciation and understanding of jazz specifically, and music in general.

Photo Credit: Frank Myers (2018)
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The Camps

The stArt of Cool Jazz Camp accepts applications for music students grades 3-5 and 5-12. This program will enroll beginning players to advanced players for one week with a final recital to conclude the week's instructional activities. The camp normally runs from 9am-4pm Monday-Friday with the final performance being a mandatory activity for all students. Instruction ends at 4pm and aftercare is normally available until 5:30pm. All students must be picked up no later than 5:30pm.

Daily activities for the camp include an introductory class where instructors will perform the week's music for students. Next the class will be divided into small performing groups (i.e., combo groups) based on experience level. After meeting with their combo groups, students will have their first group lesson with an instructor who specializes in their instrument. At the conclusion of the lunch hour guest teaching artist(s) may be invited to perform and conduct a workshop on a range of topics including the performance history of artists like Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, etc., music production and beat making.

The Ensemble

The StArt of Cool Ensemble was formed in the Summer of 2018. After partnering with NCCU to host a summer camp for students 5th-12th grade, the campers, inspired by what they had learned during the week and the bond they had formed with each other,  wanted help finding more performance opportunities.

The Ensemble has performed as openers for the Aztec Sun Band and Devon Gilfillian at Durham Central Park’s Summer Music Series: PLAYLIST.

We are currently booking the Ensemble for the 2018-2019 Season (through June 2019). If you are interested in having the Ensemble play you event please complete the form and we will reply back within 72 hours.

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The Academy

Offers instrumental and vocal jazz instruction to 5th-12th grade students in the Raleigh-Durham area. Students have the opportunity to enhance their musical education with professional training and performance opportunities. The program will runs weekly. During weekly sessions students will learn repertoire and performance techniques from a faculty comprised of the best local musicians in the area under the direction of Al Strong.

The Academy meets weekly from September through May. The Academy performs in the Ensemble regularly throughout the year at partner venues throughout Raleigh-Durham.

The Academy students and their families receive complimentary and discounted tickets to attend performances and educational events at partner venues throughout Raleigh-Durham to supplement this unique jazz immersion experience.


Students must be entering grades 5th–12th and reside within the Raleigh-Durham area.

Instruments: Saxophone (Alto, Tenor, Baritone), Trumpet, Trombone, Guitar, Piano, Bass, Drums and Voice.

Now taking reservations!

Sign up here!

Start of Cool 2019