Local high schools’ music programs shine

January 24, 2012

By Staff

Early bird jazz band is in fine tune

Iman Baghai Issaquah High School

Most students dread the 7:25 first-period bell. But a small group of students might really dread the 6:25 zero-period bell. These students drag themselves to school in order to practice America’s music — jazz.

Under Issaquah High School Director of Bands Patrick Holen, the Issaquah Jazz Band is an audition group of about 25 members. They play a variety of tunes from the swing big-band era, Latin salsas and hard-driven rock music that allows members to fine-tune skills and awaken sleepy minds.

“The experience is worth the lack of sleep,” said Madison Kelly, a pianist and junior.

But the sleep deprivation does kick in at times, according to Alli Gillett, a guitarist and senior.

“The vibe is laid back and chill … though that might be because no one is really awake yet,” she said.

Junior Jack Gentsch chimes in that the students still work hard despite being tired.

“We tend to work hard and make a great performance,” he said.

The Jazz Band most recently played at Swinging in Vienna on Jan. 14 and hopes to have more performances throughout the year.

New choir director expands repertoire

Hannah Grandine Liberty High School

From two years ago to today, Liberty’s choir program has grown immensely, both in size and quality of music, and has had great opportunities for performances at places like McCaw Hall and the Bellevue Hilton.

Much of the success has been due to the addition of new choral director Robin Wood, who took the position with the Liberty Singers last fall. Wood’s skilled direction does not slip past her students.

“What sets the choir program at Liberty apart is our amazing choir director,” senior Sheady Manning said. “She puts so much time and energy into making us sound the best we can, and I’m extremely grateful for that.”

“The passion and energy she brings every single class is astounding,” sophomore Eric Spradling said. “She ultimately pushes us to be the phenomenal ensemble that we, the Liberty Singers, have become.”

Choir will continue on strong this year, with singers competing at the Solo and Ensemble competitions this month. The Liberty Singers will also team up with the Issaquah and Skyline choirs and the Evergreen Philharmonic for the Masterworks concert in May.

However, choir’s success all comes back around to Wood.

“She continually pushes us to grow,” senior Ashlynn Rowe said. “I couldn’t be at the place I am now without her and her coaching.”

Vocal jazz singers commit to excel

Sampurna Basu Skyline High School

Students attending Skyline High School have a chance to take their singing experience to a whole other level through enrollment in the school’s Vocal Jazz program.

As a student who has yet to explore the music wing of the school, my only interaction with Vocal Jazz students is during the week of Valentine’s Day, when students in the class serenade their classmates as a part of the Sing-A-Gram project. After further research, I realized students in this class put forth a tremendous amount of commitment to stretch their musical capabilities to the utmost.

“Vocal Jazz is a relatively small group of vocalists and musicians that are passionate about jazz music and performing,” Vocal Jazz student Sandi Scripa said. “It takes quite a lot of commitment to participate, and be willing to spend hours in after school rehearsals, travel and performances.

“So far, we have performed at a vocal jazz festival, Winter Fest in Seattle, and a number of after school performances.”

In February, the ensemble is traveling to Moscow, Idaho, to participate in the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. You can catch the group’s next performance from Feb. 8-11 at Skyline’s next musical, “Grease.”

Small band gives big performances

Shreya Tewari Eastside Catholic High School

The Eastside Catholic School band has been around since the school was founded in 1980. The number of band members fluctuates from year to year, depending on the amount of musical interest in the new classes.

This year, the Eastside Catholic band is a small (albeit dedicated) group with 13 members.

The band is divided into a jazz band and a percussion ensemble. In jazz band, there is currently one trumpet, four saxophones, one pianist, two drummers and one trombone, and two of the musicians are from the middle school.

The band has long since had a tradition of letting middle school students with exceptional aptitude or experience with a certain instrument play in the high school band. This makes for a long-running legacy and program, because there are kids that will have been playing in the band for five years by the time they graduate.

The percussion ensemble contains many of the same students as the jazz band, and they switch around instruments depending on the song — that way each member of the band has the opportunity to learn or play multiple instruments.

Last year, the band placed second at district competition and is currently preparing for an event at the end of this month.

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