BY MARTHA DIX —
The jazz band from Shorewood High School, Shorewood Intermediate School and SHS’s jazz combo went to Evanston Township High School, in Chicago, to participate in a jazz festival on February 22.
“It was a really excellent day of learning and education,” said Nick Castonguay, band director.
About 22 students came from SHS and about 40 from SIS.
At the festival, both jazz bands played for critique from a clinician. The festival was not a competition, but the bands received feedback from the clinician.
“We learned a lot from the experience of playing for the judge,” said Gretchen Froelich, sophomore.
The band played three contrasting pieces: “Gospel John,” a rock piece, “Afro Blue,” a Latin piece, and “Straight No Chaser,” a swing piece.
According to Tulsi Shah, sophomore, one valuable piece of advice they gave the band was the importance of dynamics, especially making sure to play quietly when it says so in the music.
“In jazz, many people just want to play really loud all the time,” Shah said.
The students also went to master classes where students broke off into groups like saxophone, percussion and brass based on the type of instrument they play. Here they listen to a professional or teacher give advice about their instruments.
Some students also played in front of judges in small ensembles.
In the evening, the students went back to the school for a concert by Donny McCaslin, a professional tenor saxophone player, who went to UC Berkeley and is a three-time Grammy nominee for best instrumental jazz solo. He also worked with David Bowie on his last album, which was released in January.
Before his evening concert, the students had an opportunity to ask him questions.
“It was really cool to hear and to listen about his experiences with Bowie,” Shah said.
According to Shah, it was a humbling experience for him especially because it was Bowie’s first number one album in the U.S. and he got to hear the reviews before he died.
McCaslin also helped the students work on their skills like improvising.
“He showed us what he does to practice; he inspired some of us to work at practicing,” Froelich said.
This is the first year Shorewood went to Evanston Township High School Jazz Festival.
In past years they have gone to the New Trier Jazz Festival, also in Chicago.
According to Shah, both schools had their pros and cons.
“Overall, I liked the New Trier Jazz Festival a bit better because I think it had more variety and it was a little bit more professional,” Shah said.
“We might switch it up and try going to UW Eau Claire Jazz Festival or one in Madison at Sun Prairie High School,” Castonguay said.