By RAVINA PATEL
On Wednesday April 29, the three University High School (UHS) Jazz ensembles gave a free performance in the Big Theatre. The Jazz ensembles consist of mostly brass instruments accompanied by percussion, piano and guitar or bass, with many students performing on instruments they do not usually play during the band season.
When Mr. Corey Heddon (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.) began teaching at UHS eight years ago, there was only one Jazz Ensemble; after recognizing the interest level among students and the support from administration, he was able to add a second one. This year, many students were interested in joining Jazz, especially with the flexibility of the new schedule, so the music program added a Freshmen Jazz Ensemble. Regarding the three jazz groups, Mr. Heddon said, “The jazz program begins when marching band concludes in November. We immediately start auditions to make sure all students are in the correct ensemble for their level of skill. Jazz is a very different style from the more traditional style we perform in the band class and requires a lot of practice.”
The concert started with an upbeat piece called “Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock, conducted by Mr. Rudy Silva (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.). This is the first time the Freshmen Jazz Group has performed in front of an audience, and Mr. Silva mentioned that it was a challenge for the students to play a new instrument during the concert and learn the correct fingerings.
Jazz Ensemble II, an auditioned group consisting of sophomores, juniors and seniors, performed next. The ensemble is conducted by Mr. Roger Wu Fu (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.), a former student of Mr. Heddon. Most students in this band also play another instrument throughout the year, and this new experience has taught them how to approach different styles of music. Jazz Ensemble II played seven songs with deliberately placed variation of tempos to keep the audience engaged. A favorite among the audience members was “Skyfall,” by Adele, with solos from the pianist Eugene Wang (Sr.) and Harvey Miranda Coe (Sr.) on the tenor saxophone. As the song progressed, the rest of the band quietly joined in, getting louder at the chorus before fading out.
Jazz Ensemble finished the concert with five songs that showcased its talent. Mr. Heddon, the conductor, described them as the top jazz ensemble, comprised of students who have been in the band program for years and have worked hard to get into this group. The audience was especially impressed by the solos, which showcased individual talent. In the buoyant and lively “Bernie’s Tune” by Bernie Miller, Brian Kim (Sr.) blew the audience away with a saxophone solo. The audience was also impressed by David Li (Jr.), who switched from saxophone to clarinet to play his solo. Mr. Heddon added to the audience’s excitement by walking around the stage while conducting, and clapping and cheering with evident pride for his students. The last song of the concert was “Hit the Ground Runnin’” by Gordon Goodwin, a funky, fast, and upbeat song that earned the ensemble a standing ovation.
Band’s final concert this year will be on June 9.