East’s jazz bands, Spotlight vocalists close the year with “Jazz Explosion”

“Jazz Explosion Concert is the best all year because of how each band and choir has evolved over the course of the year. We are at the best point that we have been all year and we get to show that off through many songs during a night of all jazz music,” junior baritone saxophonist & Spotlight singer William Mckeown-Robbie said. Photo by Diana Morales.

The auditorium was filled with chitter chatter until the lights dimmed and the sounds of soul jazz became more notable than anything. As the first trumpet solo of the night caused the crowd erupted in applause from infection of the wonderful melody.  

On May 1st, East’s jazz band performed their last concert of the school year. The concert was dubbed Jazz Explosion and featured big band, jazz band, jazz ensemble along with Plank Jr. High’s jazz band. Throughout the concert, East’s vocal jazz groups In the Mix and Spotlight also performed providing transitions in between sets.

The night began with Plank Jr. High’s jazz band’s renditions of “Avenue Swing,” “Contents Under Pressure,” and “Chili Today and Hot Tamale.” After their set, the big band then songs such as “Cool,” “A Night in Tunisia,” and “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.”

This concert was a different experience for tenor saxophone player senior Lucas Merkel as this is the last jazz band of his high school career. From here on out, he said, jazz rehearsals are done and the musicians will soon be handing in their music for the last time.

“It makes me sad when I think of how I won’t be coming back to the stage to play anymore. Today, the curtains fall on my high school band life,” Merkel said.

Band director Steven Rexroat said that jazz concerts are typically more laid back and have more of a festive environment. The audience is encouraged to applause whenever a solo is performed and the enthusiasm of the applause shows how much the jazz bands have grown over the past year.

“Each of the jazz bands have all greatly improved since the beginning of the school year. Playing jazz is unique because it is much more about style than just learning notes and rhythms. I would say each group has really improved their overall style and understanding of what it takes to play jazz authentically,” Rexroat said.

In The Mix gave a jazz performance as well as providing a transition between the jazz bands performing. The vocalists performed three songs, such as “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” “Unforgettable,” and “My Shining Hour.”  

Baritone saxophone player and junior Spotlight singer William McKeown-Robbie said that is this is the best concert out of the entire year to attend since you can witness the growth of each band and choir being shown off by a night of jazz music.

“As we get used to each other and each other’s sounds, we’re able to grow together as an ensemble. Individual growth is important too because each person has to be able to play their own part in order for the band to be successful. Now, at the end of the year, we’ve all grown and can play at a higher level,” senior Madilyn Marti added.

Marti also said that she has grown as a musician over the course of the year. Marti is a baritone saxophone player and credits her band director who pushed her out of her comfort zone and gained more confidence in her skills.

Jazz band followed up after In The Mix’s performance and played four songs, including “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson. Spotlight performed their smooth voices by performing “Scarborough Fair,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Birdland.”

Merkel who is a part of the jazz ensemble and had a solo during “The Heat’s On.” To alleviate some of the stress of performing, Merkel spends what downtime he may have watching humorous videos and listening to music. He added that it’s important to have a clear mind and to stay confident, while also reminding himself that mistakes will happen, but the show must go on.

The jazz ensemble was the last band performance of the night and performed three songs, including “The Heat’s On,” “Samba Ti Kaye,” and “Four.” To end the night, the jazz ensemble and Spotlight banded together to perform one last song “Smack Dab in the Middle.”

Senior pianist Audrey Dyer said that “Smack Dab in the Middle” was her favorite song to perform because of how well the unique tune meshed with the voices of the singers in Spotlight. Dyer also said that the number was the most difficult to learn and perform.

“It had a more difficult chord progression and multiple key changes that were sometimes hard to keep up with as we learned it. Our part was also meant to accompany the choir at times so we had to play under them and count our rests perfectly even when they were long,” Dyer said.

Before the concert came to a close, Rexroat awarded Dyer with an award that recognizes her musicianship throughout her four years with the program. Dyer said that she was surprised to receive the award since jazz band is full of amazingly talented musicians who also deserved the award.

“I was extremely honored to receive the award and could not believe that my high school jazz band experience ended with such an amazing accomplishment. Mr. Rexroat has always pushed me to work at my improvising and voicing skills and I finally felt as if all this hard work had paid off,” Dyer said.

Rexroat said that Jazz Explosion was a well-crafted night of jazz to end the year on a high note.

Diana Morales is a staff writer for Oswego East’s online news magazine the Howl

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