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Let’s add some swing

Lydia Gerety
Watchamacalits work with trumpet player Dave Kobberdahl. “It [jazz band]is just honestly more zesty. You get to do your own thing more,” sophomore Kiera Swanberg said.

On Saturday, Feb. 3, Ankeny High School’s auditorium was filled with the swing and dance of jazz instruments starting as early as 7:00 a.m. and ending around 9:00 p.m. Jazzorama had begun.

“Jazzoroma is a day where all our jazz bands in the south feeder grades seven through twelve have an opportunity to work with guest artists in a clinic format for the first part of the day. And then in the evening, they get to perform with those clinicians,” Director of Jazz Lab and Yet To Be Named (YTBN) Jennifer Williams said.

Jazzorama is a day to showcase all that the jazz bands have been working on and grow their skills.

“Usually we will play our full set with the whole band, and then we will split up with a few different specialists in our instrument and we work on various things,” sophomore tenor saxophone player and Whatchamacallits member Kiera Swanberg said.

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The clinics give students time to work on their music with professional musicians and get feedback on how to improve.

“I think the idea of being pushed a little bit harder to grow. It is not just rehearsal, it is a professional in front of you. It is really interesting to see how they [student musicians] react to that,” Jazz Ensemble Director Kelly Weber said.

Clinicians can provide a certain level of instruction because they are specialized in certain instruments, allowing them to aid students in certain aspects of their playing.

“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture,” Weber said. “Sometimes you just need to hear someone do it the right way, and then model yourself instead of having me try to use the English language to get a trumpet to play exactly how I want them to play.” 

Towards the end of the night after attending clinics, the students get to perform a concert to demonstrate all that they have learned, along with the musicians who helped them.

“I love watching the students when the professionals start to solo and their eyes get really big, and their jaw drops like, ‘Oh my gosh, you can do that on an instrument’,” Williams said.

The concerts also give students a chance to see what the other bands have been working on, especially for the seventh and eighth graders who are newer to jazz band.

“I feel this sense of seniority and I can say like, ‘Hey, I was once there and now look where I am at.’ It is like, you see the progression with Jazzorama. You see the little kids, seventh graders, and then you see all the way to seniors, and you see the ensemble and everybody’s blown away by that,” junior trombone player and YTBN member Isabel Peverill said.

Unlike concert band and marching band jazz band is completely optional and students choose to audition and participate.

“I feel like being able to audition is a cool opportunity. I was very excited to do that. I spent so much time on the audition this year and that is something I look forward to,  the excitement of saying, ‘Oh, I got into this jazz band,’” junior tenor saxophone and Jazz Lab member Ava Sesker said.

Jazz is also a completely different style of music that students do not experiment with a lot in concert band.

“[In concert band] there are fanfares, lyrical pieces, and fast technical pieces. But jazz is different because the articulation you have to use is completely different,” junior alto saxophone player and Jazz Lab member, Sydney Jones, said.

Jazz band also presents new opportunities for students, such as learning a new instrument or getting featured parts you might not get in concert band.

“A lot of times you do not get to play a lead role as the trombone or a saxophone player. And in the jazz band setting, as a saxophone player, I get a lot more notes in jazz band than I do in concert band. Trombones too get to carry the melody because it is a smaller group, so you have a little bit more flexibility and time to highlight those smaller sections,” Williams said.

Students do not just love jazz band for the music and the chance to grow but for the people and family that has been created.

“I like going into jazz band every morning and seeing Mrs. Williams always happy and in a good mood. She makes jazz band fun, like to learn and play fun tunes,” Sesker said.

While jazz band is a fun and silly environment, it also requires a lot of dedication to attend rehearsals outside of school and challenge yourself.

“I threw these brass solos at the trumpets and trombones, and they are hard. And I basically said, ‘You have two weeks, figure it out,’ and at first they were like, ‘No way,’ and were like let us try to play it at 170 bpm. They are going to play it at 190 bpm [at Jazzorama] and they are going to absolutely murder and the first time they did that, like the pride I held for them because that is kids getting in a practice room. That is individuals taking responsibility. Like I have so much respect for them,” Weber said.

Weber also has a tradition that she stole from her high school band director where at the last performance, students sign a pair of shoes.

“It is the idea that every step this band takes going forward, even when you are not here. You are a part of the legacy and I always told them the band that Jack Weber, my three-year-old, is going to be in someday is going to be what it is because of the kids that are on those shoes,” Weber said.


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Lydia Gerety, Staff Reporter
Lydia Gerety is a sophomore at Ankeny High School. She is involved in Model United Nations and marching band. She plans to go to a four year college and pursue a degree revolving around English language arts. Lydia likes to spend time with her family and friends and can be spotted at your closest bookstore roaming the shelves.
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