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“The larger story of this project is that these Dreamers are not simply numbers or statistics to throw around for political purposes. They are human beings, proud Americans … and represent the way we all connect together through music.”Throughout the show, Daversa spoke about the inspiration for the project and the precarious situation the Dreamers face. He brought to the stage five exciting young talents who, he explained, are as American as anyone else, but who find themselves at risk because they are undocumented. As Daversa eloquently stated, those musicians embodied the importance of “taking care of our own.” After all of them contributed spirited vocals to the chorus of “Living in America,” they returned one by one to showcase their individual skills. One of them, Julie Kim, sang a ballad she had written called “Dreamer.” Rapper Caliph engaged in some speedy rhyming over the familiar riff of “The Immigrant Song.” “The larger story of this project is that these Dreamers are not simply numbers or statistics to throw around for political purposes,” says Daversa, who has also staged performances of the project at the Gusman Concert Hall at the University of Miami and the Ridgewood Conservatory in Paramus, New Jersey. “They are human beings, proud Americans … and represent the way we all connect together through music. On each of the narratives on the album, the Dreamers talk about their relationship with music and what it means to be an American. Beyond all the challenging logistics and organization involved in such a project, everyone who participated in these recording sessions felt the emotional weight of the deeper narrative. Some of us had to stop at times to gather ourselves before we could move on.” Daversa and his production team worked with several non-profit organizations to locate Dreamer musicians who’d be willing to participate in the project. The trumpeter also scoured every locale in which he had a gig — from Oklahoma and Iowa to California and Connecticut — looking for prospects. In the end, Daversa and his team enlisted 53 Dreamers from 17 states who originally hailed from 17 countries, including Belize, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, South Korea and Sweden. During the extended selection process, Daversa wrote charts with spaces for solos without knowing who or what instrument would fill them. [caption id="attachment_6811" align="alignnone" width="1024"] John Daversa won a Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for his project American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom.[/caption] To serve as his big band on American Dreamers, Daversa and his team selected professional musicians from Miami, Los Angeles and New York, as well as a number of former and current students. The main tracking was done at the Frost School of Music in Miami, but recording sessions with Dreamers were also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Atlanta and elsewhere. “Each Dreamer we worked with was a source of inspiration for me, the production team and the musicians,” Daversa says. “Giving them the opportunity to shine their individual lights and being there to witness their gifts emerge was a fulfilling, empowering experience. It truly made me believe that there’s a genius walking around somewhere in every human being I meet. A great example of this is Daisy Cardozo from Houston, who has one of the speaking interludes and sang a beautiful lead vocal on ‘Deportee.’ She’s had no formal musical education, but she’s a complete natural musician. The arrangement of the song is fast, in 5/8, with several meter changes, and is very complex and intricate on paper. She found a way to sweep over the whole thing effortlessly and bring natural emotion to it. “That’s just one example of the way American Dreamers points to the fact that music is a true unifier, bringing people together for the greater good,” he adds. “If the heart is touched first, the head can’t be far behind. As it has throughout history, jazz offers the perfect platform to say, ‘Hey look at this issue. Maybe we can make a difference.’” — Jonathan Widran