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Rockford Jazz Band Swings Santa Parade

By John Vancil, 11/16/18, 9:15PM EST

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The Rockford High School Jazz band immediately prior to the kick off of the parade. ~ Photo by John Vancil


The Rockford High School Jazz Band Trombone section pictured with the Kung Fu Panda float. ~ Photo by John Vancil

The award-winning Rockford High School Jazz Band put a bit of swing into the 2018 Art Van Santa Parade presented by the Grand Rapids Jaycees on Saturday. The theme of the parade for this year was “Sounds of the Season” and the Jazz band enthusiastically participated with an up-tempo, jazzy, jumping version of Jingle Bells.

Thousands of parade-goers watched as the parade made its way down the streets of Grand Rapids, and it was also broadcast LIVE on WOOD TV8. The parade originally started in 1919 as the Wurzburg’s Santa Clause Parade on Campau Square. It was designed to bring people downtown for a kickoff to the holiday shopping. In 2010, title sponsor Art Van Furniture was added bring large scale attractions and a partnership with WOODTV8 to host the event on live television. Today the parade is the 2nd largest in the state of Michigan, competing against Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade.


The Rockford High School Jazz Band rides their float in the 2018 Art Van Santa Parade through downtown Grand Rapids. ~ Photo by John Vancil

Directed by 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 Simply 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.

The next opportunity to hear this outstanding band will be at a concert with MSU on Sunday, Dec. 9, at Northview High School, beginning at 4 p.m. The concert will feature the Rockford Jazz band, the Northview Jazz band, the Michigan State University Jazz band and the Michigan State University December Jazz Artist in Residence, guitarist Mark Whitfield.