Jazz Fest

When I first entered TPHS’s very own Performing Arts Center, I was enveloped by the sounds of instruments mid-tuning and the pre-show chatter of the audience. There was a sense of warmth in the theater as family and friends took their seats waiting for the ensemble from the first school to take the stage.

The SDUHSD Jazz Fest happened on March 11 at 4 p.m. The event included seven schools: Oak Crest and Diegueno Middle Schools performing together, as well as Pacific Trails Middle School, Carmel Valley Middle School, La Costa Canyon High School, Canyon Crest Academy and Torrey Pines High School. With pieces like “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Cold Duck Time” and even one original composition, the Jazz Fest was the perfect way to showcase the talent of the district’s jazz- players.

While every school had impressive and technically sound performances that drew the audience in and kept them entertained, there were a few pieces in particular that made me feel like I was roaming the streets of New Orleans during that famous Jazz Fest.

PTMS, one of the first schools to perform, did a wonderful job with Paul Murtha’s arrangement of Richard Rogers’s “My Favorite Things.” They added a jazzy twist to a piece most famously known from the movie “The Sound of Music.” The moment the first note was played, I was transported back to my living room watching Julie Andrews sing for the first time. The saxophone and flute solos added depth to the piece and allowed for a few students to have their moments in the spotlight. Ending strong, the students took their bows as the audience replaced the sound of instruments with clapping and cheering.

There was a lull between a few of the performances as the event seemed to be a bit ahead of schedule. However, these breaks only allowed for more excitement as some last-minute friends and family were able to join the audience in support of the performers.

Another school that stuck out to me, in particular, was CCA. Only three of their jazz band members were sent to the festival, but that did not stop them from taking the audience’s breath away.

Out of the four pieces they performed, the most impressive one was the original composition “Granite Foot” by their pianist, Joey Kim-Weigandt. It was clear to the audience just how much passion went into this piece, as Weigandt’s hair flipped with every key he hit. There were solos for all three instruments — bass, piano and drums — which were just as impressive as the entire composition. The fast-paced, upbeat piece was like nothing I have heard before and left the audience in awe.

The next school to perform was CVMS. Their first performance was Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” arranged by Michael Sweeney.

The conductor guided his students through the piece with spirited hand movements, and he seemed to be feeling the music just as much as everyone else as he swayed along with the arrangement. The powerful sounds of the brass instruments mimicked the blaring of New York City subways, though I can safely say that this piece was much more enjoyable than any subway ride I have been on.

Another one of CVMS’s pieces that was a highlight of the night was Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther,” arranged by Paul Murtha. The iconic start to the piece drew the audience in immediately as the familiar sounds of the drums and piano started. It was a sharp contrast from the piece before as it was a much slower pace and felt more like a movie heist than a busy New York City subway.

The last, but certainly not the least, to perform was TPHS.

The final performance of the night was Eddie Harris’ “Cold Duck Time,” arranged by Alan Baylock.

The piece’s unique combination of rock, funk, and jazz sounds made it one of my favorites of the night. The guitar and trumpet soloist had a stage presence that really drew the audience in, making it almost impossible to focus on anything other than the music. The fun the band was having almost impossible to other than onstage was reflected in the audience, as I could not stop bopping my head along to the beat.

The Jazz Festival made it clear you do not have to travel far to find good jazz music, as the SDUHSD district brings the brassy and classic sounds of New Orleans straight to you.

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