Directed by Tom Whaley
Q. What are your thoughts on participating in the Berklee High School Jazz Festival and how long have you been participating?
A. We had an amazing weekend in Boston! We LOVED hearing all the great bands and being apart of such a prestigious Jazz Festival. This was Santa Monica High School’s first time performing at the Festival, although as a high school student in the North Kingstown High School band (has participated for 30 years this year), I participated every year and we even won the festival in 1981.
Q. What tunes did you perform during the competition and at the showcase?
A. Our big band played “Walk in the Park” by Sammy Nestico and “The First Circle” by Pat Metheny, arranged by Bob Curnow. Our combo played “Three Blind Mice” by the Jazz Messengers, “Body and Soul” arranged by a student, Alex Clouse, featuring a female vocalist and we finished our set with “Some Skunk Funk” by the Brecker Brothers. For the showcase, we played “The First Circle”.
Q. What was the feeling when you were announced as the winner in your Class?
A. We were so HAPPY and PROUD. When we go to jazz festivals in California, I usually sit with my students at the awards and it was strange to be sitting down on the floor with the other directors and my students way up in the back balcony. Many of our students had been texting their parents back home about the fact that they could see the awards ceremony and Showcase concert streaming LIVE, so I started getting texts and emails from parents back home who were in tears with pride. They felt like they were there too.
Q. How did it feel to perform at the Showcase as the best among your peer-ensembles? Incredible.
A. As we were the last group to perform, we had the pleasure of hearing the winners from all the other divisions before us and we were just knocked out by the talent and creativity of the directors and their students. Our students were so excited to play on the big stage in front of the huge screen.
Q. What can you tell us about your ensemble, your school, and your band members, or the jazz/band program at your school?
A. Santa Monica High School has 3200 students and over 900 are in the music program! We have 5 full time music teachers (2 band, 2 orchestra and 1 choir) In addition, we have jazz band teachers like myself who teach as part of a dual enrollment program with Santa Monica College after school twice a week. We have something very rare at Samohi. The choir, band, orchestra and jazz program are all among the finest in the nation. More students are selected from Samohi to participate in California All State choir, band and orchestra than from any high school in the State! We have tremendous support from our community and local partners and music education is sacred in our community. Our jazz program has actually grown significantly in the last 4 years. We now have 2 full big bands and an amazing combo. We do a guest artist concert each year and past guest artists have included: Gordon Goodwin, Eric Merienthal, Lee Thornburg, Bob Mintzer and this year our guest artist was Wayne Bergeron.
Q. What’s something that we don’t know about your ensemble that you’d like to share with us?
A. I am so proud of our students, because they juggle so much to be a part of jazz band, which meets after school on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30-5:30. Many of our students are in Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Marching Band, sports etc..and we raised much of the money for our trip to Boston by playing gigs at our local Sheraton Hotel (across the street from the school) and other gigs in our community. On the same night that we performed in Boston, our community was holding our annual “Artists For the Arts” fundraising concert, which this year featured David Crosby, America and Richard Page. In the past, our guest artists have included Jackson Browne, Billy Idol and Heart. This concert is a highlight every year, because the students are excited to play with legendary rock stars, the stars love playing with our students and all the money raised helps to fund arts education in the Santa Monica-Malibu USD. Even though our students missed playing in that concert, NONE of them had any regrets about their experience at the Berklee Jazz Festival. When the news of our first place finishes in Big Band and combo in Division 1 at the festival hit the press back in Santa Monica, the requests to perform at board and city council meeting came rolling in! It has really helped promote jazz education in our community and I have seen a dramatic boost in confidence in our students.