Jazz Ensemble Tunes Up For Future Performances

By Ryan Channer ’19

In the interest of full disclosure, Ryan Channer is in Jazz Ensemble.

Saxophones roaring, trombones bellowing, bass thumping, and trumpets blaring high in an enchanting melodious expression, with everyone falling in line, swinging to the drummer’s time. The emotions and passion of the players giving life to the harmony. You are witnessing the Jazz Ensemble.

“When you improvise, you speak through your instrument,” said David Wilder ’18, “You say all of your thoughts and feelings–dreams and aspirations–everything. Sitting back and listening to that from my friends and teachers is comforting, to say the least.”

The Jazz Ensemble is an after-school band. It’s run on Mondays and Thursdays from 3:30PM until 5:00PM.

Both band directors, Ms. Laurel Stinson and Mr. Daniel Jordan, lead the Jazz Ensemble. Mr. Jordan teaches

Monday, and Ms. Stinson conducts on Thursday.

“I initially joined needing an escape route,” said Wilder ’18, “at that point, football at Midwood was suffocating me. I needed some way to escape–another place to go to. I chose the Jazz Band. Not only did I get to stay with my friend group, but I got to expand on another thing that I loved to do: play music.”

The Jazz Ensemble doesn’t work on concert music alone. In addition to learning music, students learn about how to play the music and understand it, becoming better jazz musicians and players.

“We work on listening for form within songs, hearing the chord progressions, as well as improvising, learning phrasing, and building vocabulary,” said Mr. Jordan.

Tristan Bucknell ’19 said: ”I joined jazz [band] because I thought it would be a good way for me to become a better musician by exposing myself to something new. I participate in jazz to improve my playing in general, but to also widen the variety of music I  play and acquire the skills I get from playing jazz.”

The ensemble has learned and performed big band arrangements of various well renowned, respectable, and heavily influential composers and musicians, such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Timmons, and Dave Brubeck. Some of these songs were jazz standards, which are jazz songs that are widely known by listeners and musicians alike and are considered standard repertoire for the professional jazz musician. Some of these songs include Sidewinder, East St. Louis, Moanin’, and Night Train.

“The reason Jazz Band is here is because it’s an integral part to a well rounded band program in a school,” said Mr. Jordan. “My high school had a jazz ensemble and Ms. Stinson’s high school had a jazz ensemble. It’s a legitimate art form, so students should learn about it because it’s influenced so many other genres of music. To not have one wouldn’t make sense.”

Daniela Mieja said, “Students often practice their music outside of during rehearsal time. “I practice almost every day for about two hours.”

Participating in the band provides a creative outlet for students and provides a way for med-sci students who are not able to take an art elective to continue in band.

“Being in the Jazz band has made me fully realize my love for music, causing me to start composing music, and things of that nature,” said Wilder ’18. “It also helped me develop my personality, made me a harder worker, helped me learn the importance of giving my full effort into whatever I want to do, and has helped me find a career path to pursue as I move on to college.”

They’ve formed memories as a band and a group by learning and growing together.

“My favorite memory would probably be Lincoln Center, which is when we went to Fordham College last year to perform in front of judges and other schools. It was a great learning and bonding experience for the whole band. We saw many different schools and musicians there that showed and taught us a lot,” said Zan Babar ’20.

Ms. Stinson said, “Students should join the jazz band because as a New Yorker, there are so many opportunities to play jazz professionally. If you get good enough at your instrument, you can be gigging straight out of high school. I know jazz musicians that play in the city that didn’t go to college because they were able to make ends meet and have a career as a gigging musician because of the opportunities you get living in the Big Apple.”

This compassion and love for the band isn’t lost on either of the teachers.

“We have to set up for jazz band and rearrange the room because it doesn’t quite fit the concert setting the band room is set up in, so one of my fondest memories is when Zan got rolled up in the carpet,” said Ms.Stinson while laughing. “It shows that you all are comfortable in the band room, and that’s my goal; that the band room is a safe space for you to be yourself.”

The group has expressed a deep sense of community and comradery. People within the ensemble all push and motivate each other to pursue their dreams, work harder, improve, develop their tone, vocabulary, and sound. They also strongly encourage others to join the ensemble.

“Honestly, it’s a great community to be apart of,” said Wilder ’18. ”It’s one of the best ways to relax and get better at the same time, and there’s never a dull moment in the band.”

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