Saturday, Jan. 31 marked the 47th annual Berklee High School Jazz Festival, where Bethel students took 4th place in the S-2 division.
“God had definitely smiled on us today,” notes BHS’s longtime band director Mr. Coachman, “After coming here since 2004 (with the exception of 2013) our placing really attests to the hard work and effort out band puts into this.”
This event made Bethel History as it was the first time Bethel has received any awards, much less an honorable mention for placing 4th, and two students receiving individual recognitions for their division.
Both Andre Morais ‘16 and Ben Fitzpatrick ‘16 won Outstanding Musician Awards, highlighting their impressive solos given during Bethel’s performance playing “When The Saints Go Marching In,” “You Only Got One,” and “Brooklyn”.
Fitzpatrick took home the award for his outstanding solo performance on the saxophone featuring his impressive talent in jazz. He was also recognized for his original piece “You Only Got One” and original Jazz score which he composed himself. He explains that while his personal achievement was impressive, he was most impressed by the team’s accomplishment, “It felt like the icing on the cake. Bethel finally won an award!”
Morais, on the other hand, took a highly unorthodox approach to his solo sousaphone performance. To explain, at the end of “Brooklyn” Morais let loose a unique “scream” through his instrument, sounding almost like windshield wipers in the rain. He corrected me later stating that the musical terminology is a process called “Multi-phonics” which was inspired by “The Scream.” Nevertheless, the judges were extremely impressed. To note, a sousaphone is a brass instrument held upright which is very similar in appearance to the tuba.
The event was hosted in the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, adjacent to the Berklee College of Music. The festival showcases jazz ensembles from students all over the world, and the bands are scored by a team of Berklee College professors.
The convention itself is a sight to see, three stories of convention space filled to the brim with students rushing to catch another performance. Along the exterior are small conference rooms setup for each band’s exhibition, any passerby is welcome to walk in and enjoy any performance they choose.
After each performance the professors offered constructive criticism of the band’s presentation. Most comments highlighted simply how impressed they were by the students and Mr. Coachman’s leadership. However, the judges’ only complaint was that they would’ve liked to hear more of the band playing in unison, to which Mr. Coachman responded comedically, “Well if the jazz festival were to remove the time limit.” In all, the band was given high remarks for the impressive solos, and ensemble compositions.
“We’ve come such a long way from my Freshman year,” states senior trumpet player and former drum major Nathan Walker ‘15, “It’s taken a lot of late rehearsals and long hours, but we finally placed. It feels great to have improved so much.”