Jazz Ensemble performs at Maine Band Directors Association Jazz Festival

The Jazz Ensemble. Photo Provided by Hailey Francoeur.

The Jazz Ensemble has had an impressive start to its season with two festivals remaining in March. The Ensemble consists of 22 high school students who rehearse twice a week to prepare for local festivals throughout Southern Maine.

Their first festival occurred Wednesday, Feb. 8 at Kennebunk High School for the District 1 Group Jazz Festival. Sanford received a Bronze rating, two points shy of a silver. The students were able to stay and watch some other local schools perform as well.

On Saturday, Feb. 11, the ensemble traveled to Westbrook Middle School, where they played in the Maine Band Directors Association Jazz Festival. Sanford spent the day watching local schools and most notably saw the Portland Jazz Orchestra perform as the featured act of the day. Sanford put on a strong performance that was followed by a clinic from a judge.

From both festivals, Sanford was praised for their professional appearance and demeanor, their dynamics, intonation, and strong soloist. Sanford’s set features six soloists. These soloists use improvisation skills learned in rehearsal to create solos on the spot. 

The Jazz Ensemble plays a total of three songs: “Reds Good Groove” by Red Garland, arranged by Terry White (a Maine native); “Cute” by Neil Hefti, arranged by Mike Story; and “Caravan” by Duke Ellington, arranged by Micheal Sweeney. All three tunes are jazz standards, meaning they have been very important songs in jazz history. During rehearsal, students are able to learn about the history behind the musicians and the pieces. 

The jazz ensemble has two more performances this year. The next one will be at the High School Instrumental Showcase on March 7 at 6 p.m. in the Partners Band Gym. Their final performance will be at Hampden Academy on March 18 for the Maine State Jazz Festival. Last year, the group took home a silver rating, which was a few points shy of gold. 

Next year at SHS, Jazz Ensemble will be a class during the school day instead of an after-school group. This will allow the students in the class to dive a bit deeper into the very important history of jazz music, while also being able to explore a much larger range of repertoire to play.

If you play an instrument and want to learn more about jazz, contact Ms. Francoeur or sign up for Jazz Band when course selection rolls around!

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