Community Jazz Bands Play Western Michigan and Ford Honors Gala

A CHS jazz band performs at the 2013 WMU jazz festival.
A CHS jazz band performs at the 2013 WMU jazz festival.

You stand there with your band, nervously sweating as the people in the auditorium fill in your seats. You’re wearing a suit, your music is laid out on the music stand in front of you, and you’re holding your horn lightly in your hand, the way a duelist might hold a rapier before preparing for a duel. With the bright lights in your eyes, you turn to your band, nod, and begin playing.

This is the feeling many Community jazz students will feel on March 15, when several of Community’s top bands will perform and compete at the Western Michigan Jazz Festival. The festival has been around for over 30 years, according to Wagner, and Community was one of the original combos going.

The festival is an excellent opportunity for students as well as the jazz program as a whole. “It’s an extremely inspiring day, we hear all these great bands from all over the state.. they always have a wonderful guest artist,” says Wagner. Students spend the whole day at Western Michigan University, participating in master classes with jazz faculty, hearing performances by multi-downbeat award winning WMU combos, and performing and competing in front of judges. Wagner loves it because, “[He’s] really impressed with the way they handle the day, so its just a lot of fun… the kids just get really excited about how this music is made, and it’s just a wonderful day.” The highlight of the day is the final concert, where the faculty performs with the guest artist, usually a well-known jazz musician. A student combo is also chosen as the top combo, and gets the privilege of playing at the end. Community has won this accolade three out of the four years we have attended.

Another momentous event in the near future for Community Jazz is the UMS Ford Honors Gala, on March 30,  honoring legendary jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Community has the esteemed privilege of having our top jazz combo, Superbad, perform for Wynton Marsalis, described by Wagner as “a tireless genius who never quits,” as well as the entire Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO). This will be great exposure for the jazz program, as well as a possible opportunity for Community to connect with Marsalis through UMS. Wagner had another of his bands play this gig in the past, and he was lucky enough to have members of the LCJO sit in with his band. Hopefully, that will happen this year as well. “It’s going to be really exciting for our kids to have to step up and play for such an astute audience,” said Wagner. Marsalis is one of the greatest jazz educators in the last 30 years, and a connection with Community would be exceedingly beneficial to the jazz program.

See Community High jazz bands this weekend at Western Michigan, and at the UM League Ballroom on March 30 at 6:00 PM.