Jazz bands earn top honors at Tallcorn Jazz Festival

CFHS jazz bands took top honors at the Tallcorn Festival at UNI on Thursday, Feb. 20 and Friday, Feb. 21. Jazz 1 earned first place out of 10 bands in the first band class. Junior Michael Stow was named outstanding soloist in the 4A class. Jazz, Too! earned second place out of three bands in the second band class.

Jazz, Too! performs at the festival.

Jazz, Too! performs at the festival.


According to UNI’s Tallcorn webpage, the Tallcorn Jazz Festival is the oldest, continuously running high school jazz festival in the nation, running for 63 years, and Cedar Falls High School has attended every year for at least the past 20 years.

At the festival, the bands were scored by two independent judges with 1,000 point ballots as well as taped and written comments. “Each judge is an expert in their field,” band instructor Kyle Engelhardt said. The judges evaluated the bands on solos; time; intonation; articulation; balance and blend; dynamics; style and interpretation; and programming.


Jazz One performs at the Tallcorn Jazz Fest. 

The CFHS jazz bands work hard to prepare for their performances, rehearsing three and a half hours a week outside of the school day. “Jazz band is completely extracurricular,” Engelhardt said. However, the jazz bands have many opportunities to display their music; they performed at Art-a-palooza in September, the State Jazz Festival in January, the CFHS jazz show earlier this month and the band pops concert on Monday, March 3. The jazz bands also perform at the District Jazz Festival at Waterloo West High on March 8 and at the Iowa Jazz Championships in April at the Civic Center in Des Moines.

Engelhardt said the jazz bands perform a wide range of music, including classic jazz, modern jazz rock-hybrid, a shuffle and a Cuban-influenced bop tune. “We work on the music and try to develop authentic solos over the different styles of music with all the students,” Engelhardt said.

At Tallcorn, Engelhardt noted, the jazz students enjoyed hearing the other bands and playing in Russell Hall because it was “built for jazz.” He said, “It’s fun to play jazz because it’s so creative and individualized for solos, yet there is this responsibility to the group to know your part and play the music well. Every student’s role is important to the success of the group.”

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