‘Dessert and Jazz Night’ a sound success

Shadows dance behind Hale Jazz as Dessert and Jazz night is in full swing.

Shadows dance behind a Hale Jazz group as Dessert and Jazz night is in full swing.

The jazz concert last week echoed with crescendos.

From Vocal Jazz to Jazz Combo to Jazz Band, the noise kept growing. In formal black attire, the groups swung their music from silent pauses to blaring trumpet blasts. Just as the you started to relax, the volume of the music would ramp up, making you sit tall and listen.

“Attitude, saxes,” said Jazz Band director Dan Rowe at the Tuesday morning rehearsal before the concert. From the back of the audience Wednesday night you could feel the attitude.

The layered shadows on the wall of the commons, clearly defined by the projector’s spotlight, swayed as the musicians adopted the emotion of their music.

This year’s Dessert and Jazz Night was the first concert for Hale’s Jazz classes. Two months of students waking up early to make it to 7:45 zero period and hours of practice have accumulated in an hour performance to share their work with parents, siblings, friends, and classmates.

“When I’m in rehearsal I’m attuned to details,” said Rowe. While conducting he constantly stops the music to polish small mistakes.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, I don’t think so,” or “When you play, you’ve got to play with a little more what…? Authority,” are all comments Rowe makes during practice.

Every time the students play a piece he wants them to make it a little better. He wants the students to be able to catch and recognize their own mistakes as well. Questions directed toward the band about what they need to do better are a common interruption.

But when the students are finally on the lunchroom stage, Rowe doesn’t worry about the mistakes. Concerts are for enjoyment he said.They’re the time you get to showcase all the work you’ve been doing and communicate with the audience through the music.

Students partially share his view.

“It’s really exciting to be playing for an audience,” said senior pianist Serena Barrett. “But at the same time…I worry about messing up.”

To a tone-deaf ear like mine, the mistakes sound just as great as the rest of it. But wait a second. Let’s rewind to the people and work behind this mistake-free sounding music.

This is Rowe’s first year at Hale and his 31st year in a long music career.

From Vale, Oregon, to elementary school programs, to Eckstein middle school, to Hamilton middle school, and now to Nathan Hale and Jane Adams he has been helping students become musicians.

Before teaching here he had a son play in Hale’s Concert Band for four years.

“It’s really interesting for me…not to be a parent,” said Rowe, “but to be a teacher.”

As he teaches, Rowe tries to recall his son’s experience and modifies his teaching based on the pros and cons his son reported about Nathan Hale’s previous music program.

Rowe especially wants to build fundamental skills of jazz in his students, like improvising. During class on Tuesday he told one of the drummers to make up a fun ending for the piece, beyond just a bang on the cymbals.

“If we’re doing jazz, part of that language is improvising,” said Rowe.

The other jazz classes were speaking the language of improv Wednesday night as well.

Under the direction of Evan Norberg, also new to Hale this year, Vocal Jazz was scatting whenever they weren’t singing their tunes.

Dos and das, and boops and bops rang through the audience, spontaneously sliding off a student’s tongue.

The Jazz Combo, a student-run group — featuring a piano, bass, trumpet, and drums — also integrated improv into the pieces they played in addition to making up how they played the pieces during their free time.

Whether made up on the spot or practiced for months the music created by Hale’s jazz classes are full of energy and vitality. The early risers who come to school lugging instrument cases on their back make that commitment out of a passion for music.

That passion resonated in the lunchroom during their first concert. All three groups will take the stage again for the Winter Concert on January 14.

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