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Rockford High School Jazz Band Concludes a Great Season

By John Vancil, 05/10/19, 8:15AM EDT

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The RHS Jazz Band ~ Photo by John Vancil

The award-winning Rockford High School Jazz Band concluded a season of awards and accolades on Friday night at the annual Spring Swing event. This annual celebration of Jazz has become a mainstay in the Rockford High School band calendar and this year the concert featured the RHS Jazz Band and (for the first time) the RHS Jazz Band 2. In addition, and per tradition, there was also be opportunity for Jazz Band alumni to sit in and jam on a song or two.

This year there was also a surprise performance by a group of parents calling themselves “The Jazz Beenz.” This parent (and one alumni) band formed for the express purpose of honoring the students and directors by entertaining them with a

song. The group consisted of a drummer, a bass player, two guitarists, three saxophones, one flute, one clarinet, one trombone, four trumpets and a percussionist. Covering Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4, the Jazz Beenz were enthusiastic and energetic to say the least! Best of all, the surprise for the students was complete.

Once again, Aria Show Technology (Comstock Park) provided sound reinforcement, decoration and acoustic setup in the Freshman Center Cafeteria, turning it into a remarkable bistro for the evening.

This year, the Jazz Band kicked off the season by playing at the Detroit Jazz Festival, which is the largest free Jazz Festival in the world. In November, the band was featured on a float in the Grand Rapids Santa Parade, and then in December the band joined the Northview Jazz Band for a concert with the MSU Be Bop Spartans and world renown Jazz Guitarist Mark Whitfield. All three of these events were great successes and they opened a great year for the group.

In March, the band hosted renown trumpeter Roger Ingram at Rockford High School for an afternoon clinic followed by an evening of Jazz. 

Unfortunately, the group’s appearance at the annual Central Michigan University Jazz Festival was cancelled due to inclement weather, however visits to both Western Michigan University and the Michigan State University Essentially Ellington festival were very successful!

At WMU, the Saxophone, Trumpet and Trombone sections all received “Awards of Excellence” and a number of soloists were recognized for their performance. At the MSU festival, the band won second place, and the Trombone section received an award for best Trombone section.

This year the band also received superior ratings at both the District and State Jazz Festivals.There were also some individual awards garnered this year. Cameron Shope received the Jamey Aebersold Camp award at the district festival.  Four members of the band (Cameron Shope, Charlotte Best, Evan Coberly and Michael Simonton) were named to the District 10 All Star Jazz Band and will perform with that ensemble at the Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids June 7. The performance will be on the Calder Stage. 

One last award was given out at Spring Swing, which was the RHS Jazz Band Louis Armstrong award. This award recognizes the outstanding Jazz player of the year for the band. This year the award was presented to Cameron Shope.

The band is hopeful for a return invitation to the Detroit Jazz Festival next year. Stay tuned to see what else happens for this fabulous band! 

Directed by Mr. Evan Bahm, the Rockford High School Jazz Band Number Two is in its first year of performance at Rockford.  The band meets once a week after school to practice and have participated in multiple festivals and concerts this year.

Directed by Mr. Cullen McCarthy, the Rockford High School Jazz Band is a co-curricular band activity, meeting once a week outside of class times to practice, and playing festivals and competitions throughout the winter and spring.  In 2017 the band won the Michigan State University Essentially Ellington festival and in 2018 was invited to perform at the Detroit Jazz Festival over Labor Day Weekend. The Detroit Jazz Festival is the largest free Jazz Festival in the world.