Freshman jazz concert build connections for aspiring musicians

Seventh graders, eighth graders and freshmen from both Peet and Holmes Junior High met on Feb. 5 at 4:15 p.m. in the high school band rooms to rehearse one final time before one of their most important concerts of the year. 

Directed by Ben Byersdorfer, Peet Junior High eighth and ninth graders had been preparing a variety of jazz pieces for months, as had the Holmes jazz band, directed by Laura Engelhardt, and the Peet seventh grade jazz band, directed by Eric Lins, who was sick at the time of the performance. 

Students prepared for the concert in many different ways, with some, such as freshman saxophonist Cadence Smith, taking private lessons to perfect their technique and improvisation skills. Others, such as freshman trombonist Zoe Castle, like to warm up the same way every time they perform. “The night before a performance I normally run through all my scales to make sure my note range is good. Then I go through each song once or twice,” Castle said.

After a final run-through of the pieces, the students played their pieces in the high school auditorium for their families and friends before meeting in the cafeteria for pizza and dessert. Then, at 7 p.m., the middle schoolers returned to the auditorium to listen to the high school jazz bands: Jazz One, Jazz Too!, Vocal Jazz 12 and Vocal Jazz 21. For many, watching the sophomores, juniors and seniors encouraged them to continue jazz band. “Watching the high schoolers made me want to do [jazz band] even more,” Smith said. For others, the high school bands offered a glimpse of what’s in the future. “Band is what I’m most passionate about in school,” freshman electric guitarist Abby Colton said. “Seeing the high schoolers play filled me with determination and ambition.”

Each of the bands from Peet, Holmes and the high school proved that joining jazz band requires hard work and commitment. “Knowing Jazz One practices twice a day makes you realize that to be good at something, you have to put in the work,” Castle said. “And that’s something I’m willing to do.”

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