The Tony and June Project is a 501(c)(3) Organization based in Austin, TX which shares light and love through music. Since it’s inception in 2013, the TAJP has raised money to bring musicians into local nursing homes and hospitals to entertain residents and patients free of charge. The TAJP also sponsors local events to keep the music of the Great American Songbook alive. The TAJP contracts with musical groups ranging from solo musicians to a full 17 piece jazz orchestra. Current projects include concerts for the elderly, community concerts, educational concerts, and a monthly “social club” event.
If you’d like to help out, please scroll down to the DONATE page. The TAJP received tax-exempt status from the IRS in 2014.
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The Tony & June Project is a non-‐profit organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Texas, whose primary goals are to provide charitable contributions to our local arts programs, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, senior living residences, veterans organizations; and to encourage and actively promote the highest standards of creativity, performance, education, and research in music in the community. Further purposes are to honor generations who have come before us and to help prepare future generations through concerts, clinics, workshops, archival repositories, and commissioned musical works. Our goal is to instill in all people an awareness of music’s important role in the enrichment of the human spirit, and to foster a fellowship between all generations through America’s greatest contribution to the world, jazz.
1. Performance: A quartet or quintet comprised of the finest local musicians will perform concerts that will feature music from the 20’s–50’s. The concerts will be approximately 60-‐90 minutes. The goal of these performances is not to merely entertain, but to transport the audience to another time and place. Through music, the ensemble hopes to stimulate the minds and memories of each member of the audience.
Immediately following the concert performance, each member of the jazz ensemble will seek out conversation with one of the audience members. “Tea for Two” sessions will be held for approximately 60 minutes. It is the goal of these one-‐on-‐one conversations to give residents a chance to talk to someone about anything that they feel inclined to talk about. In the past, the music has sparked fond memories and yielded stories of lost loved ones, interactions with notable jazz musicians, or historic events. With the permission of the individual, these stories will be documented in video or audio format for an online archival repository.
2. Youth Workshops.
The Tony & June Youth Workshops are comprised of two parts-‐performance and clinic.
Performance: A quartet or quintet comprised of the finest local musicians will perform concerts that will feature music from the 20’s–50’s. Theconcerts will be approximately 60-‐90 minutes.
Clinic: Immediately following the concert performance, the group will present a clinic that will get all of those in attendance involved. Topics of the clinics include jazz history, jazz icons, famous American composers, practice tips, improvisation, and many others, depending on the age/ability level of those in attendance. Clinicians will be available to field questions and share personal experiences. There will be opportunities for young musicians to join the clinicians in making music.
3. Big Band Performances. There will be three different Big Band formats for performances at various venues.
1. The Concert Big Band
2. The Dance Band
3. The Production Orchestra
The Concert Big Band
This 17 piece jazz orchestra will focus on performing for a theater-‐type audience. The repertoire will range from war era swing music to more modern big band music.
The Dance Band
This 17 piece jazz orchestra will focus on an audience who wants to dance to the Big Band hits of the War Era. The music of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, and many others will be featured.
The Production Orchestra
This 17 piece jazz orchestra will be joined by an Andrews Sisters type all girl vocal trio, as well as a group of swing dancers. This show is based on the concept of a Las Vegas/USO style production.
Kris Kimura – President and Founder
Dr. Keith Winking – Secretary
Michael Pollard, CPA – Treasurer
Jennifer Johnson – Board Member
Brad Scheele – Board Member
Member bios coming soon!
My jazz quartet has been a working group in the Austin/San Antonio area since 1997. Over the years, we’ve played hundreds of weddings, hundreds of corporate events and private parties, and literally thousands of restaurant and club dates. For a period of about 10 years, the quartet has performed for over 300 events annually. Some years, it seemed like we spent more time with the band than with our families…
The music of the Great American Songbook has been covered by musicians from Louis Armstrong to Kenny G. This collection of songs written by American composers Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Arthur Schwartz, Jimmie Van Heusen, Jimmy McHugh, Duke Ellington (and a handful of others) represents a truly American contribution to the world of music, art, and pop culture. I love this music. I have spent the majority of my life listening, studying, and performing this music. This music and these songs are truly timeless.
A few times a year, my quartet has been hired to go out and perform for nursing homes or senior living centers. For private events, the quartet commands a rather substantial fee…this is how we make our living, after all… Each time we performed for these folks, they always seemed to really like what we did and also seemed to really appreciate us being there and sharing our music with them. These have always been some of my favorite gigs. There have been some wonderful weddings and private events that were fun- but we were never really appreciated like we were at those nursing homes.
My teacher and friend, Tony Campise was a very accomplished musician. He played lead alto with Stan Kenton for years and had performed or recorded with more musicians than I have the time to list for you. This man was amazing on every level…amazing musician, friend, teacher. For five years, I had the distinct honor of being his student. As the years progressed, the student-teacher relationship grew in tandem with our friendship. In October of 2009, just weeks after he joined me on stage for my Senior Recital at Texas State University, Tony suffered a major brain injury while checking into his hotel for a jazz festival where he was to be featured. I remember being in Houston with my band when I got the call. I immediately drove straight to the hospital he was at in Corpus Christi and remained with him in the ICU for two weeks. Eventually, he was stable enough to be moved back to Austin. I followed the ambulance to another ICU in Austin, where we stayed for several more weeks.
Tony never recovered from the multiple surgeries and the trauma of the initial injury. He never spoke again, though you could see in his eyes that he was still there. For about six months, I spent every day with him (once he was moved to an assisted living center). I learned all about long term acute care and nursing homes. I was no longer a performer earning money to play music for folks- I was there as a guest visiting my mentor and dear friend. There were hundreds of people who would come and visit with him. He was loved my so many. I had the opportunity to meet many of his friends. I got to hear wonderful stories about him that I had never heard before. I even got to share my own stories. It was lovely and heartbreaking all at the same time. Tony passed away on March 7th, 2010 surrounded by his dear friends. We lost a great man that night. I miss him every day.
Meeting the in-laws is almost always an adventure. It’s a time where you’re anxious and nervous and uneasy. I think that meeting in-laws for the first time is up there with your first jump off the high dive…or your first kiss…or the first time you get on stage in front of a huge audience. I wouldn’t say that the actual meeting is pleasant on any level- but, hopefully, everything works out smoothly in the end. While still dating, my (now) wife, Jennifer- one such meeting was required. Her parents and grandmother came to San Marcos for a visit. It was her graduation from Texas State. The cards were already stacked against me… I’m a musician trying to date someone’s daughter. Fortunately, her grandmother June was a righteous ol’ broad. From the first conversation I had with her, I loved this woman. There was nothing uncomfortable about meeting or hangin’ with granny. She was awesome. While the in-laws and Jennifer went perusing the local shops, June and I would sneak away for a cigarette and some conversation. I was amazed at how much of the music that I loved was the SAME music that she grew up with. She told me a story about going to dance with Jimmy’s band when little Frankie was singing. She was referring to Jimmy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra! She shared many wonderful stories that first trip- and many more on subsequent visits. Jennifer’s folks ended up being great too, by the way. Since that initial uncomfortable meeting, we’ve all become quite close and I’m glad to know them.
June was getting older and couldn’t really care for herself completely anymore. Jennifer’s Dad would make very frequent trips to Pittsburgh to check on her. Before too long, it was apparent that she needed more full time assistance. They decided to move her down to Hilton Head to be close to them. Now, June was only a five minute drive from her son and his wife. I visited Hilton Head with Jennifer on a few trips. The assisted living residence she was staying at was very similar to that of Tony. I was again, for only the second time in my life, a visitor to a nursing home and not a hired performer.
June Johnson passed away in 2012.
The Tony and June Project
At one particular nursing home in Austin, I met Linda. The quartet had been hired to come and play some music for a luncheon. There were probably thirty residents in attendance. Half of them were wheeled in. Some of them had used their walkers to get to the front. They were all smiling and happy for the visit and the music. We played “It Had To Be You,” and “The Shadow of Your Smile.” We played a bunch of tunes that they all seemed to love. Then, we played “I’ll Be Seeing You.” This little lady in the front row began sobbing…and sobbing some more. I wasn’t sure if she felt sick or needed assistance. The song ended, and she was fine. After the concert, I walked over to her. I introduced myself and met Linda. She was lovely. Ninety-three years young. I knew from the way she carried herself, this was a classy lady. I was happy to meet her. I told her that I hoped that she enjoyed the music. She slowly smiled and looked off into the distance. When she looked back at me, I told her that she seemed affected by “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Her demeanor changed completely. She began to cry again. I felt HORRIBLE. What was I doing? I explained that I liked the song… I explained that I learned the song from my teacher… I expertly noted that it was the number one song in 1939. I remember just rambling on and on. I just wanted for her to stop crying. Finally, I just apologized. I said I was sorry that I chose to play that tune. I was insensitive and a fool. I felt SO bad. She wiped her tears and took my hand. “Sweetheart, thank you for playing that song.” Her smile brightened the whole room…even as tears continued down her cheek. Linda explained to me that “I’ll Be Seeing You” was their song. She and her husband danced to that tune the night before he shipped off to war…never to return. It was the last time she would spend time with her husband. Now, I was mortified. Here’s this young guy-getting paid to play music for senior citizens-choosing the one song that brings sweet little old ladies to tears. I wanted to just run out of there. I wanted to hide my face and pretend that it had never happened. I wanted to crawl into a shell and disappear. Linda must’ve known how bad I felt because she squeezed my hand a bit tighter. “Thank you, Kris. I hadn’t heard that song in years. So many memories came back to me. Our first date. The first flower he gave me. Our wedding. Thank you. I’d forgotten some of those things. The music brought it all back.”
Okay. I get it now. THIS is what I’m supposed to do. THIS is why I have studied and listened to this music for the majority of my life. THIS is what Tony was always trying to teach me. Music is LOVE. Through music, I have the power to make people smile. I have the power to bring back long-lost memories. I have the power to brighten up someone’s life. I have the power to share a beautiful moment in time with another soul. I have a great power. In one of the Spider-man movies, there’s a line…”with great power comes great responsibility.” I get that too. If I possess this great power, even if only a small amount…I want to be responsible with it. I want to use this power for good. I don’t want to use this power for personal gain or fame or riches. I don’t want to use this power to get ahead in life. It was at that point that I decided that I wanted to use this power to benefit those who really need it. I want to spread love and light with those who don’t get enough of it. I want to help folks remember things that they thought were lost. I want for Linda to close her eyes and see the moonlight in the distance as she dances with her beau. I want to make hearts smile. This is why I started the Tony and June Project.
The Tony and June Project was founded in honor of Tony Campise and June Johnson.
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Thank you in advance for your kindness and support!
If you don’t feel comfortable making a donation online, or would like to donate something other than money to our cause, please contact me through the CONTACT form on this site. We can communicate via the phone, texting, or in-person if you prefer!