Often when people think of jazz, they might think of the blues or maybe a funky saxophone solo, but this genre of music is far more than meets the eye. Jazz music has different types: rock, swing, latin, funk, and so much more. In Jazz 1, students get to experience musical styles contrary to what they would encounter in concert or symphonic band. Spencer Wahl, the director of Jazz 1 at HHS, helps students learn these music styles: “The ultimate goal of being in this jazz ensemble is to have exposure to different styles of music. These are styles that you don’t hear very often day to day, so it can be fun to have an ensemble that is dedicated to exploring them.” Jazz 1 is an auditioned ensemble; the students selected have some previous understanding of jazz. The variety introduced in Jazz 1 can help them become even more versatile musicians.
When choosing music for Jazz 1, Mr. Wahl picks new and interesting songs to play at festivals and showcases. “I try to select music that covers a variety of styles. Currently, we’re working on one latin tune, one swing tune, and one ballad,” Wahl describes. Playing different pieces of music help add to a student’s skill. Mara Skogen, second alto saxophone in Jazz 1, explains her favorite parts of this ensemble: “My favorite part is being able to play the music with my friends and playing a different type of music.”
To be a musician in Jazz 1, Mr. Wahl notes, “Students must prepare and submit an audition. When evaluating the auditions, I listen for accuracy in notes, rhythms, and articulations. I also listen to the tone quality that each student is achieving on their instrument. Particularly with jazz, I also listen for the style that the student is playing with. Some students have a better sense of swing style than others.” Jazz 1 is a place for students to grow; however, they will still need to have a solid musical foundation for the rest of the ensemble to succeed. Megan Krueger, first chair alto saxophone in Jazz 1 and in symphonic band, adds, “Jazz 1 challenges me by having harder music and rhythms to learn and play.” Jazz 1 is an extremely educational and fun experience; any student looking to expand their musical knowledge should look auditioning for this class.