Highland Park High School’s acclaimed biennial arts-immersion program, “Focus on the Arts,” kicks off its 25th anniversary at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, with a special event honoring lifelong Chicagoan Ramsey Lewis. The jazz legend himself will perform with the Ramsey Lewis Quartet(guitarist Henry Johnson, organist William Kilgore, bassist Joshua Ramosand drummer Charles Heath) for the second half of the program. The concert, sponsored by Ravinia, is one of several special events the festival has planned to celebrate Lewis’s 80th birthday, including Lewis’s long-awaited debut as soloist and composer with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on August 8.
Focus on the Arts begins with talented students from the HPHS orchestra and jazz ensemble entertaining Lewis with standards arranged by Duke Ellington and Count Basie as well as premiering new arrangements and orchestrations of Lewis’s own greatest hits by Andrew Chukerman, commissioned by Ravinia, where Lewis is artistic director of jazz. Pianist/composer Paul Johnston, an alumnus of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, will perform his new tribute to Ramsey—which emulates Lewis’s smooth, cool style—with pianist Alexis Lombre, an alumna of the Ravinia Jazz Scholars (a REACH*TEACH*PLAY education program). Mary Jo Papich, founder of the Jazz Education Network and former arts chairman of Highland Park High School, will emcee the evening. The event is free, but tickets are required and can be obtained through Highland Park High School.