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West Ranch hosts jazz festival

Posted: May 21, 2008 9:41 p.m.
Updated: July 22, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Golden Valley High Jazz I, with director Roger Brooks at left.

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Music is life for maestros, but it was a big party for students who participated in the Super Jazz Festival at West Ranch High School Saturday, featuring 32 jazz bands from all over Southern California.

Under the sizzling sun and the yellow, red, orange, and blue lights on the stage, passions ran high among the kids in the festival. They were ready for fun and competition as they mingled with other musicians who
traveled from afar to be there.

The bands from the William S. Hart Union High School District and the others from as far away as Ojai played their selections hoping to win first place in each of the divisions; Novice, intermediate, advanced,
and heavy.

With a full 10-hour schedule to follow, the program began at 9:30 a.m. with performances by the novice and intermediate bands. In these divisions, ensembles and bands from Burbank High, Royal High, Los
Alamitos High and four from the Hart district participated to receive a score from a panel of judges, all active musicians in the field.

After an hour of saxophone and trombone clinics, the event continued with combos and junior high bands. McAuliffe, La Mesa, and Rancho Pico junior highs surprised the audience with their talented members, some of whom carried instruments even larger than themselves, yet managed to produce full sounds.

"I think the students did the terrific job. They have such dedication," said Charley Harrison, an adjudicator and director of the UCLA Jazz Orchestra while still serving as an associate director for the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. Harrison encouraged the students to keep up the good work. Despite the extreme weather and the long schedule of the day, he gave his time to judge young musicians.

"I heard so much good music, and I just want to hear more," he said.

Following the junior high bands, the Long Beach Poly Tech High Jazz II Band impressed the audience with their selections including one called "Rachel," in which the entire selection was accompanied by a female
soloist.

Each school carried unique soloists whose parts reflected their passion for music. To audiences, the movement of both the arms and legs of Steven Gordon, a freshman pianist from the Santa Monica High School Band, did not look funny - rather, they saw a sincere, young musician absorbed in jazz and following the rhythms of his body.

"They had lots of good improvisational ideas," Cristian Cardenas, a member of the West Ranch Jazz Band, said of many of the soloists.

The stiffened expressions of the beginning groups softened into an air of relaxation in intermediate groups, and the uniform black suit and a tie slowly turned into colorful spots of red and blue in the seats of the heavy and advanced ensembles. A feeling of freedom could be perceived with the increase in their level, along with each member's development in his or her interpretation of jazz.

West Ranch Studio A Jazz Band marked the end of the program. As the host and the youngest band with only four years of history, the group presented selections with interesting titles including "Samba Dees Godda Do It," a tune by Tom Kubis, to fun rhythms from "Get in Line."

At 8:30 p.m., Robert Babko, the director and coordinator of the festival came on stage to announce the best three in each division and the Super Jazz Festival Champion. First place went to Saugus High School in the intermediate division; to the Santa Monica Jazz Ensemble in the advanced; and finally, to Eagle Rock High School in the heavy division.

Lastly, the "Super Jazz Festival Champion Award" went to the Long Beach Poly High Jazz I.

"Despite the blues theme embodied in nearly all jazz music, I experienced a different perspective of it today," commented a parent, "because I saw the vitality of these young musicians giving life and
excitement to this soul-searching music."

Joyce Kim is a freshman journalism student at West Ranch High School.

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