Sunday, February 12, 2012


This year I've been the guitarist for Fort High's jazz ensemble among my many involvements. We have taken two trips so far this year to perform at jazz festivals, one of them being an overnight trip to UW (University of Wisconsin) Lacrosse and another being a day trip to UW plaiteville. Both were amazing experiences and were great opportunities to see not only some great high school musicians but some world class professional jazz musicians as well.

We arrived at Lacrosse in the evening, from memory around 6-7pm and had the night to hang out in our hotel with the festival at the university being held the next day. Most of our group found our rooms and hit the pool within 2 minutes of arriving.

Our group made friends with a bunch of neat people from Badger High School in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. They were all there for the jazz festival as well. It was cool being able to meet new people and hang out in the spa and pool for a few hours with them. I probably wont see them again because we don't play them in any spring sports and they play different places to our jazz group for the rest of the year. Also they live about 2 hours drive away from us.

The festival itself was pretty exciting. There were high school bands (large groups) and combos (small groups of 4-7 people) playing in competition throughout the day and in the evening we had a concert from an amazing jazz trombone player named Wycliffe Gordon. The level of jazz played by a lot of the high school groups was very high and it was great being able to watch them and compete against them.

Our group took 2nd place for our class by about 2 points per judge (out of 100) and played extremely well. Our friends from Badger won their class (they were in a different one to us).

At the evening concert, the winner of each class played. The UW Lacrosse band also played and were pretty incredible for a college band. Wycliffe Gordon played with a bass player, drummer and piano player that he had met in high school. They were the most amazing group of musicians I have ever seen.

They played songs that they were making up on the spot without any sort of verbal communication, they just listened to each other and played. Wycliffe sang as well as making all sorts of impossible sounds from his trombone. He played a sort of funky rhythmic thing which sounded a little bit like someone beat boxing through an instrument. They were all very genuine and the music felt like a true expression of themselves. They were very natural and relaxed on stage and had this wonderful presence and sound radiating from them. It was absolutely incredible and totally inspiring.

The Plaiteville festival wasn't as exciting. We took third and most of the other high school bands weren't very interesting. We did get to see the village vanguard jazz orchestra from New York though which was awesome. They are one of ( if not the) best jazz group in the world today. They weren't as interesting in my opinion as Wycliffe Gordon but as a group they were extraordinary in their level of musicianship, Wycliffe just has an amazing and untrainable ability to pull in an audience that Vanguard lacks. Vanguard are incredible though, the history behind them is amazing (they've been playing with essentially the same members for a few decades now) and they are just world class musicians.

Playing in the jazz band here has been an extraordinary privilege that I've treasured. I've seen some fantastic players this year and we've had great times as a group. Some of the closest friends I have over here are from the jazz ensemble and the trips we take are really great for that level of bonding that doesn't always come from just hanging out with people at school or at home.

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