It’s been nearly two decades since Central High School has had a Jazz Ensemble, but that changed this spring.
A group of 19 student musicians at Central came together in their spare time with Band Director Michael Maxton to practice as part of a renewal of the high school’s jazz program. The Jazz Band performed in their first concert this week, playing six pieces ranging from “The Girl From Ipanema”by to “The Pink Panther” by Henry Mancini.
“It took a long time trying to build it back,” Maxton said of the jazz band. “The students had interest, and then we had to get the logistics together, but it’s coming together quite nicely. I’m very impressed with the kids and I’m proud of them. We wanted to show off our talents with the season ending.”
For some students, like senior Samuel Wegrzynowski, being part of the jazz band meant learning a new instrument. Wegrzynowski played the baritone in the marching band, but borrowed Maxton’s bass guitar and learned to play as part of the jazz ensemble.
“I was really excited about the jazz band and learning the bass. Learning to play it as well as learning to play a new kind of music. It’s a new style of learning, and it’s been amazing to participate in.”
CHS 11th grader Caleb Boyd has played the trumpet for five years, including in the marching band, but he’s learned he really loves playing jazz.
“You get to feel the soul of jazz, really, and enjoy the movements and how different genres are, and feel the difference between funk and soul,” Boyd said. “I really enjoyed it.”
The students largely started practicing this spring in the morning on their own time before school, because there is no jazz band class at Central currently. But, Maxton said he hopes that will change next year.
“For some of them, it’s playing a new instrument and none of them were used to the jazz style, so I’m introducing them to the style of jazz, as well as learning improvisation, learning the chords, learning to listen to one another,” Maxton said. “That’s been the biggest challenge, and finding a time for them to all get together. Hopefully, this will lead to a jazz band class next year, so we can build program this even more.”