VVS Jazz Ensemble is Unique!March 2, 2017
Kingston Robinson (Senior, Trombone)
The VVS Jazz Ensemble had an amazing opportunity to participate in the NAU Jazz Festival on Friday, February 24th. About 60 different bands from schools from all over Arizona played at this event. To prepare for the Jazz Festival, we practiced once every week since everyone returned from Winter Break. During this time, we practiced three new songs, Evil Ways, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, and Garota de Ipanema. We performed these songs along with our previously learned pieces On Broadway, Don’t Know Why, and All About That Bass.
From the moment we stepped foot in Ardrey Auditorium, I knew that our ensemble was unique. Before our performance, we had the privilege of listening to three other high school bands. They all wore black slacks and shirts with ties and had saxophone, trumpet, and trombone quartet sections accompanied by drums and piano. In other words, these schools had classic brass bands. They didn’t have woodwinds, strings, or a singer. But we did!
When it was time to perform, we were led through the hallways to a warm-up room as we waited for the stage to become available. I was happy to practice one last time, relieving some of the anxiety I assume all of us experienced. It was quite an interesting perspective seeing the 1,300 auditorium seats from the stage we were watching just moments earlier. Our performance was great! There weren’t any problems as we played our six contemporary pieces.
After the performance, we attended a clinic where we were given feedback on our performance. We were asked questions like “What is jazz?” or “Who are your favorite jazz musicians?” with the intention of teaching us about the history and elements of jazz. As we replayed a couple of our pieces, our clinician suggested specific improvements and taught us techniques such as subdividing the beat, making it easier to capture the “groove” of the song. After this session, I felt like I had a better understanding of the “essence” of jazz.
At the end of the night, we were treated to a concert by the NAU Jazz Band and guest professional trombone and saxophone players. The concert opened with a fusion combo that had an electrifying solo guitarist who made playing fast seem easy. Then, the trombonist and saxophonists each played solos before playing with the NAU Jazz Band. These musicians played perfectly. The skill required for the range, speed, and complexity of their rhythms was quite inspiring. I hope to one day be half as good as they are. I’m grateful that our ensemble was able to play in the festival and experience what jazz music is really all about. Not too bad for such a small school!