CMEA Jazz Band Festival

Last Valentine’s day, 15 bands from the region gathered together to participate in the Jazz Festival, also known as “jazz fest”, hosted by Black Hills High School as an annual event.  

The middle school and high school jazz bands travel from as far as Hoquiam for the unique experience offered. These teenage musicians are given an incomparable opportunity to perform in front of fellow musical peers, along with professional musicians who act as adjudicators. These adjudicators, this year David Deacon-Joyner from PLU and Kevin Woods from WWU, proceed to judge the jazz bands, giving scores along with advice.

 The jazz bands are scored on scale commonly utilized by solo and ensemble competition, with a rating scale of 1 to 5, with a 1 being a “Superior” rating, the highest possible score. Following the evaluation, The adjudicators come down from a reserved observational seating area to interact with the jazz bands on a more personal level, providing relevant tips and pointers according to what the judge saw during the performance. These easily applicable recommendations vary from topics of articulation patterns and technical phrases to dynamic expressiveness and conveying emotions through the music, altogether presenting invaluable guidance to growing and experienced musicians alike.

Logistics aside, Jazz Festival expands to more than just a professional performance setting that affords valuable critiques. Students are given chances to “listen to all these different schools perform, and get to listen to all these cool soloists to hear the different styles of different directors”, as described by Taylor Reno, a trumpet player in the BHHS Jazz Band.

 A more demanding performance setting also provides beneficial challenges and experience for the performers, extending as far as worthwhile experience for jazz soloists. Alto saxophone soloist Nick Hall mentioned how “the hardest part to doing a jazz solo is being confident that you can play a jazz solo, because it’s all improvised so you have to be sure you can do it”.

 The BHHS Jazz Band enjoyed the opportunity to play pieces ranging from a “punchy straight-ahead swing tune” to a “trombone feature ballad” to a flamboyant “Latin piece that alternated between a Latin groove and a swing groove,” as described by the band’s director, the one and only Andrew Landowski, commonly employed as the BHHS symphonic and concert band teacher.

 The mixtures in energy and stylistic expression not only furthered the education of the jazz musicians, but provided an entertaining performance for the other jazz bands and the BHHS student body, earning themselves well deserved “Superior” ratings from both adjudicators. In summation, the CMEA Jazz Band Festival remains a proud tradition and an annual opportunity for students to further improve their music education.  

By Meredith Sayler


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