Winter Harmony Comes to the Ark as the CHS Jazz Program Fills the House

Winter Harmony Comes to the Ark as the CHS Jazz Program Fills the House

Lights ignite the stage in a flood of blue and Will Militzer prepares for his solo. Only the thrum of a deep bass is there to accompany him as his solo begins. With a spark of spontaneity, Militzer begins. He balances the highs and lows and keeps to the story of the piece as the rhythm takes over. And as he reaches the peak of the solo, the other instruments erupt back into life.

After years of practice, jazz students get to show off their skills with solos. Soloing is a balancing act: to keep energy, flow and nerves all under control in just a few minutes while playing to hundreds of people.

Shannon Kawata, bassist in Jazz IV, always tried to keep the same feeling from the original song. With many of the piece’s origins during the 1960s — and roots in the African American community — she tried to preserve the emotions portrayed in the piece.

“I feel like music is one of the ways they can preserve whatever their thoughts,” Kawata said. “I wanted my solo to reflect that. The idea of the song itself, as well as the inspiration I get from that story behind the music.”

However, soloing wasn’t the only type of performance showcased. Combos always had to keep in sync with each other, even through their improvisations. Jazz director, Jack Wagner, encourages students to improvise as much as they can, and sometimes he can hear as much as 90% of the piece being improvised. Because of the spontaneity, Wagner ensures combos are familiar with each other,

“It’s kind of like a miniature forum,” Kawata said. “You all have the same interest in performing so you have this unique stability.”

From the moment where they enter the stage to when the final round of applause rings out, combos stick together. However, even being with other performers isn’t enough alone to quell the nerves. Just before concerts, Jazz II student Isaiah Horton’s nerves always linger, but when his combo comes out and applause rings out, excitement takes precedence. 

The stage lights make it easier for Horton to take everything in. When his combo is finally on stage, there’s more excitement than nervousness. The build-up to the performance gets him ready to play. 

“I like being on stage and performing,” Horton said. “I never really get nervous, more excited to go out and do what I love.”

For Jasper Forgey, walking into the jazz concert was thrilling. 

“You walk up this little hallway and you see all the bright lights on the stage and you get applause,” Forgey said. “I think that’s definitely the most exciting part. You can’t even see who is in the front row but you can see that they’re all there and giving applause.”

Forgey loves the audience and other student’s support. From stepping onto the stage to the final applause, Forgey is glad the audience is there as a comfort.

“It’s a good feeling,” Forgey said. “I like the tension and it’s kind of magical. The audience is all there and you can hear their applause and they’re always supportive and cheering, yelling, hooting and hollering to encourage you.”

Wagner also loves how students support each other. 

“I love how the oldest kids are right in the pocket of those younger kids making sure that they’re really feeling supported and encouraged because they remember what it feels like to be so nervous and do this,” Wagner said. And he feels the support paid off. “The kids played really, really well. I thought it was one of our best winter shows ever, which is not easy to pull off in December.”

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About the Contributors
Leo Castilho, Journalist
Leo Castilho is a first-year journalist and a junior at Community High School. Outside of home and school, you can catch Leo rowing for Skyline down at the docks of Concordia College, in a lab at Umich, at a fair, or relaxing with friends simply driving around.
Anthony Wang, Opinion Editor
Anthony is currently a Junior at Community High School. It is his second year as a communicator stuff, and first year as a Web opinion editor. Anthony is doing Varsity Crew at Huron, and Mock Trial at Community. In his spare time, Anthony likes to hang out with his friends, play video games, and watch videos on Youtube.
Aidan Hsia, News Editor
Aidan is the news editor for the Communicator and a senior at CHS. He’s played classical guitar for most of his life but loves all kinds of music. Aidan likes reading, playing games, or watching late-night movies with his dog. He’s excited to start his senior year and to write stories for the Communicator.

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