Jazz is sophisticated stuff. These 16 to 24 kids can do what a lot of adult musicians cannot do. Jazz fans everywhere lament that jazz seems like a dying art form overwhelmed by the simpler music of country, rap, hip-hop, and whatever it is that most kids listen to these days. But jazz is in good hands with many fine programs in the high school and university music programs.
Olympic Heights High School Jazz Band is a top performing ensemble. Learning to play any musical instrument is hard, but playing jazz is the ultimate challenge. In jazz you not only have to know the tunes you have to use the chord structure and complex rhythms to compose on the fly (improvise). Jazz musicians talk to each other with their instruments, and listening is a big part of jazz improvisation.
Students need to be engaged with what each member of the rhythm section was doing, and, moreover, the rhythm section needed to interact with the saxes, trombones, and trumpets. Many educators are using Jazz to teach democracy. You have the power of the individual and you need to learn how to use it in combination with other individuals and the group. Jazz stirs the emotions, from blues to ballads to hot swing.
“Jazz is our heritage and I feel as a music educator that I have a great responsibility to teach it. My students work hard to play and interpret quality music like Duke Ellington’s and Count Basie’s music. This great music teaches them so many things that embody American democracy and diversity. Though jazz places importance on finding and expressing one’s individuality, it also demands cooperation and teamwork for the greater musical good. There is a delicate balance between the individual and the group. Jazz was born out of a blending of African and European music and traditions. The Olympic Heights Jazz Band students have a deep connection with this music and it brings beauty and great joy to them.”
Director of Bands
Olympic Heights High School