CHS Jazz Blowout at the Ark 2017

Crammed between the colorful shops and restaurants on Main Street of Ann Arbor, the door to the Ark opens as groups of people enter to purchase tickets for the 2018 Community High Jazz Blowout. Reaching the top of the stairs, music can be heard pumping through the doors and the smell of freshly-popped popcorn wafts from the concessions stand. Inside, the attraction of the night is the blaring trumpets, crashing symbols, belting vocals, and melodious saxophones. Everyone had come to see the talent of a group of dedicated award-winning high school musicians.

Starting the 8 PM show, a group of Community seniors performed a medley jazz teacher and director Jack Wagner called “Grad Party,” with Emily Tschirhart and Isabel Ratner on vocals. The next groups followed in order, from the Jazz 3 and 4 combos to the entire Jazz 1 class. Each brought their own sound into the mix, to thunderous applause. There was a special focus on the seniors, as it was their last performance in the high school jazz program.

“This the last concert, and I’m feeling great,” said senior and bass player Timmy Walters, or Juicy T as his friends like to call him. “It’s great seeing all of my friends and all of the people I’ve worked with throughout the years and their accomplishments today.”

Walters was not the only one who impressed with the musicians’ showing.

“Every band played above themselves,” said Wagner. “I’ve never had a night where they all rise above the norm. It was really exciting. I mean usually it’s like some bands will, some won’t, but everybody hit hard tonight.”

“Everyone blew my expectations out of the water,” Community junior and keyboard player Aris Chalin said. “The level of musicianship at the end of the year was so much better than even the winter concert. I think that that just goes to show how much growth that everyone is willing to put into the program and how much Jack puts in to make these kids grow.”

Chalin says he is really thankful to be a part of Community’s jazz program and credits Wagner with its success.

“I know that sometimes that as jazz people [we] are just so focused on nailing changes or whatever that we don’t take time to really step back and truly be thankful for the program that Jack has put together. What’s he’s done with the program is completely phenomenal, like he consistently helps us win Downbeat awards, which is a crazy experience in and of itself, but to have a program where that’s not even the main focus of what you’re doing is truly incredible.”

Leaving the little door back onto Main Street in the chilly dusk, the music is over but still rings in the ears and warms the heart.