Jazz brings new opportunities for learning, growth

Jazz season has begun, and both the jazz bands and vocal choirs are preparing for their first concerts.

After last season, it didn’t seem like the jazz program could get any better, especially since they were able to perform at the state convention, something only available to schools every fourth year.

However, Kyle Engelhardt, the Jazz One director, said this year’s band is off to a great start. He said, “It’s going to be fun because we only graduated five students from last year’s group when we played at the state convention, so this year we’re starting off pretty far along already.”

However this also means that the new additions to Jazz One have a lot of ground to cover to be able to be at the caliber of the other players Engelhardt said.

There are many opportunities available to Jazz One this year, some of which include performing at the Noce Jazz Club in Des Moines and getting a song commissioned for them by the jazz studies professor at UNI, Chris Merz.

The students are just as optimistic about this year’s jazz season.

Junior trumpet player Emma Cryer said, “This year is litty. This is the best jazz band that we’ve ever had at Cedar Falls High School.”

Each band/choir said they were going to make the most of their season to complete their goals. 

For some, their mission is team oriented. Cryer said, “Our goal for this year is to place better than seventh at Champs, even though it’s kind of rigged against bands like us who are constantly working on new things and not the same thing over and over again.”

For others, it is all about keeping it loose and cool this year. “My goal for this year is to keep jazz enjoyable and to not make it feel like a job. I want to keep it fun,” junior saxophone player Sofia Muñoz said.

Most students start to play jazz band in the seventh grade, which is when it is first offered in Cedar Falls; however this is not always the case.

Senior Johnny Hartleip, who plays both the alto and tenor saxophone, said, “In fifth grade I started playing in the high school jazz band. Concert band was too easy, and I wanted to have a challenge.”

Jazz appeals to student musicians in many different ways. 

“I feel like there are not as many rules governing what I can play and what I want to say,” Hartleip said regarding what he likes best about playing jazz.

Engelhardt and Muñoz both have very similar views as to why jazz is amazing. They said that what makes it special is the fact that musicians are allowed to be individuals while still being a part of something larger than themselves.

Senior Beth Culberson has been a part of the jazz choir since her sophomore year. She said, “I think that the style of jazz singing is really cool. Also, the small ensemble of singers allows for more individuality.”

For junior Shelby Conditt, jazz plays a large part of her life as she participates in both jazz band and jazz choir. She said, “Even though I love jazz choir, I enjoy jazz band a little more just because there are so many different instruments and sounds, rather than just voices.”

Soloing is also one of the best parts of jazz band according to both players and directors.

Emma Cryer, while describing fellow Jazz One member, Johnny Hartleip, said, “Johnny pulls some really killer solos. He goes ham.”

Muñoz said, “It requires a different skill set, and so being able to play something that not everyone can play is something cool to say, ‘Oh, I play jazz.”

Engelhardt said, “I like the spontaneity of soloing. The ability to be creative when you improvise is a lot of fun.”

“For the kids working on improvisation, it is really a whole brain activity. The left hemisphere deals more with factual aspects, while the right is more intuition oriented. When you improvise, you have to use left brain to memorize scales and chords so you know what appropriate note choices are, but eventually you have to quit consciously thinking about that with the left brain and the right brain needs to take over, and you can then play intuitively,” Jazz Too director Gerald Ramsey said.

There will be plenty of variety and new things coming this year. Engelhardt said, “If you hear us once, you won’t hear the same song twice.”

Jazz Schedule

Dec. 20 – Winter Concert (Vocal)

Jan. 5 – NEIBA Honor Jazz Band @ Cedar Rapids Kennedy (Band)

Jan. 23 – Jazz One performance @ Noce Jazz Club in Des Moines (Band)

Jan. 31 – Pops Concert (Vocal)

Feb. 2 – CFHS Jazz Show, 7:30 PM @ CFHS Auditorium (Vocal and Band)

Feb. 15 – Tall Corn Jazz Festival @ UNI, Time TBA (Band)

Feb. 28 – CFHS Band Cookie Concert @ CFHS South Gym, 7:30 PM (Band)

Mar. 2 – NEIBA Jazz Festival @ Waterloo West High School, Time TBA (Band)

Apr. 2 – Iowa Jazz Championships @ CY Stephens Auditorium, ISU, Ames, Time TBA (Band) 

May 8-9 – All-State Jazz Bands in Des Moines (Band)

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