All that jazz

Jazz Band ensemble performs in festivals, including Jazz a La Mode

Vila Miller and Jackson Dills

Zdenka Hulak, Staff Writer

Jazz Band is a small ensemble of student musicians that focus on jazz music, which is different from other types of music because of its range of styles and the use of improvisation during performances. This winter, the jazz band has been performing in various festivals, including Jazz a La Mode at CGHS. 

Senior Jessica Marqua is the lead trumpet player in the jazz band.

“Jazz a La Mode is different from what would be your normal concert that you would go to. Jazz is different, and our jazz is set in the band room,” Marqua said. “All the lights are down, and you have lights on your stand. It’s a nice, set mood with candlelights. It’s actually super cool to set it up and see it all come together. It’s really relaxing. You can relax and just forget all of your thoughts. It’s a really good time.”

The Jazz Ensemble has not only performed at the high school’s Jazz a La Mode but have also performed at the ISSMA Jazz Festival at Whiteland High School, where they earned a gold rating. 

“What we try to do with that is we want to go to contests that have clinics,” Kevin Schuessler, director, said. “We go to festivals not contests; we’re not competing with other groups, so we generally have professional jazz artists—people that are doing it all the time—that are coming and listening to us. And then, they’ll give us input, and then we’ll end up applying that. We generally also have a clinic that I’m very excited about.” 

Schuessler does not only enjoy performing with the jazz band. 

“I love rehearsing with the students. I think that’s the fun part. It’s about putting the personality to the music that I think is so engaging,” Schuessler said. “Then again, sometimes the vocabulary gets a little colorful, but that’s okay. It’s not in a bad way. Sometimes I have to explain my colorful language, shall we say.” 

Jazz Band is unique because it incorporates elements of traditional music along with improvisation. 

“I really enjoy it; it’s a fun atmosphere. It’s serious because you do have music to play, but you can also have a lot of fun with it,” Marqua said. “It is quite different in the sense of like a concert band where ‘this and this’ is exactly what you have to do. You can have more fun with it and come up with a different style and a different feel.” 

The style also appealed to junior Mandy Hale, who has done jazz band since last year and is the group’s only flutist. 

“I joined Jazz Band because my brother was a piano player when I was a freshmen and also because jazz flute is an underrepresented instrument,” Hale said. “I kept doing it because it was a fun way to get all different kinds of music into my repertoire. I enjoy playing jazz music with my friends the most.” 

Not only is flute an underrepresented instrument, but Hale also thinks it’s special because of the different techniques you can do with it while playing it and the wide variety of ways you can make music. 

“Sometimes, I will find that I make a different noise on my flute when I’m trying a new skill, or there will be songs where we purposely make our sound go flat,” Hale said. “I also find that the general characteristic of the sound stays mostly the same but a wider variety of sounds are produced.”

“Flute is more special in Jazz Band because I’m the only flute player in the band. It’s not your typical jazz instrument, and you don’t find jazz music for flute many times, so I have to transpose my music from alto sax music mostly.” 

Like the flute, sophomore Noah Salyers, who plays electric bass, also provides distinctive elements that no one else can bring in the Jazz Band. 

“It’s interesting because it’s in both orchestra and band, so most instruments aren’t able to do that, but it’s one of the special ones that are able to do it,” Salyers said. “I’m able to play more freely. With concert band, you have to play exactly what’s written, but in Jazz band, you’re able to just play, and if you play the wrong note, it doesn’t matter that much. You can also improv in between notes where it starts out with me just listening to what they’re playing, and then I keep trying to add little by little, so it becomes something else.” 

Like Hale, Salyers also has a family connection with Jazz Band. 

“I’ve been playing bass since I was in the fifth grade, and my sister and I both play it, so it was a way for me to connect not just to my instrument but to my family too,” Salyers said. 

Jazz is a unique style that has a unique effect on students.

“I enjoy the people and jamming along to some songs. That’s the best part because we stand in the back, and I get to stand there and groove and move along with all the music, so it’s a good time to be loud and proud and play whatever you want,” Marqua said. “Jazz is definitely a good time. It’s definitely something good to try to get a different feel because it’s different from concert band and pep band. It’s quite different in that sense. It’s a great time.”

Sophomore Tessa Bennington joined Jazz Band not only for the music style but also to open doors for the future. 

‘“I joined Jazz Band for future opportunities and getting experience for college to play jazz. I was introduced through drumming,” Bennington said. “People said, ‘You should play jazz.’ I’ve been drumming for five years. I think people should do jazz band to expand in their music and to learn about improvisation and soloing.” 

This Tuesday, the Jazz Ensemble performed at the winter showcase, which ended their season.

Ben Baranko and Alec Gardner contributed to this story