Bethel High School’s jazz band has been challenged with the task of performing among some of the most prominent musicians in the state in the Western Connecticut State University jazz festival on Friday, April 27.
“We’re playing several songs and each one is in a different style,” says Christina Filippakos (’12), a tenor saxophone player. “‘True North’ is a smooth sounding ballad which focuses on tone. ‘Oop Bop Sh’bam’ is a piece that combines silly vocal lines into an instrumental jazz piece. ‘Cafe Rio’ is energetic and catchy. ‘Rivers’ is our most difficult piece. It is the most complex and interesting sounding also, filled with non-traditional sounding chords.”
The band has put forth a lot of time in preparation both individually and at routine meetings. “Jazz band meets every Tuesday and Thursday from six to eight,” states Julia Buzak (’13), a lead alto saxophone player. “We receive the songs we will be playing at the beginning of the year and this year specifically, we played three of the songs at our winter concert and another piece just a few weeks ago.”
The players have had plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the pieces they will be playing through earlier festivals concerts, so they have a feel of what the performance will be like. The band has gained some outside help along the way, such as instructors from nearby colleges like Westconn. “We had one of the directors of jazz studies come in February and he helped us with our song ‘Rivers’,” says Mr. Damon Coachman, band instructor. “We took his advice and applied it to our other pieces.”
The event provides a unique challenge because every year it varies due to changes in the musicians participating, songs being played, and instruments available. “Every experience is different so it’s hard to apply information from last year because you have new players”, notes Coachman. “Every group has its strengths and weaknesses.”
Fortunately, the band has had all year to work out their errors and maximize their potential. The band will represent Bethel’s variety of skill levels, from middle school musicians to professionals.
It is certain they with represent BHS’ music program well at WestConn among even the most renowned of jazz bands.