Hart Jazz Band MT 021617
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Jazz greats help young Hart Jazz Band musicians at band invitational

The James Hart Jazz Band got pointers from two of the best musicians in the business when they took part in the 29th Annual Jazz Fest Band Invitational at Prairie State College.

The Hart band was one of 20 bands invited to the two-day event Feb. 16 and 17.

  Sofi Riedel is at the ready for her musical solo during
  the James Hart Jazz Band presentation at Prairie State
  College’s Band Invitational on Feb. 16.
(Photos by 
  Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
 

The James Hart Jazz Band got pointers from two of the best musicians in the business when they took part in the 29th Annual Jazz Fest Band Invitational at Prairie State College.

The Hart band was one of 20 bands invited to the two-day event Feb. 16 and 17.

  Dylan Barnas, left, and
  Korey Mulling practice
  for their presentation at
  the Prairie State College
  Band Invitational Feb. 16.
  The Hart School Jazz
  Band played three
  selections. 

 

Music teacher Matt Johnson said he’d worked with the students for several months on the three pieces they performed: “ Where Do We Go From Here,” “Black and Blue” and “Alright, OK, You Win.”  The band is an extracurricular activity, so these young musicians are at school at 7 a.m. three days a week to practice.

For the 18 student musicians from Homewood, it was their first time playing on a stage. The sixth, seventh and eighth graders, some so short that they couldn’t be seen over the music stands, gave it their all on Feb. 16 and performed without any glitches.

While other students and guests were in the audience listening, the Hart students were playing for Orbert Davis, a Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and co-founder of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, and Ernie Adams, a renowned percussionist and teacher. The pair conducted the 20 clinics throughout the two days for junior high and high school jazz bands.

  James Hart School
  student Charlotte
  McManus does a bit
  of practice on the
  vibraphone before
  the school’s jazz
  band presentation.

 

“That sounded really good,” Davis told the Hart students. Then he and Adams joined the band on stage to offer pointers on breathing and rhythm. 

“The most beautiful thing I’ve every seen is air,” Davis said, teasing the students. “Seriously, that’s why we don’t think about it, because you can’t see it.” Yet, for anyone playing a wind instrument, learning good breathing techniques is essential, he reminded them. He had students practice how to take in deep breathes before they started playing a section on their trombones, trumpets and saxophones. The sound was much louder.

Improving breathing “is one of the hardest habits to correct, because we simply don’t think about it,” Davis said.

Adams wanted students to learn how to keep a rhythm by following their own heartbeat. He had them practice using their hands on their chests counting out six beats. 

  The saxophone section
  of the James Hart School
  jazz band, from left, Percy
  Harris, Makaela Miller,
  Kirkland Benson and Diego
  Zambrano, get ready for
  the Prairie State College
  jazz clinic presentation.

 

“No matter what you do, it’s constant. Your body has to be the heartbeat during the song,” Adams told them. He suggested they keep time, like a metronome, by having their feet tap out a steady beat.

After the session, Kirkland Benson, an eighth grader playing tenor saxophone, said “I got an education on breathing better.” 

Trumpet player Bill Colton, a seventh grader, said for him the experience was more than playing because “I think I learned a lot more ― not from playing but after ― about more air and rhythm. I thought it was really cool.”

Davis said the Prairie State event is the only clinic on his calendar. He welcomes the opportunity “because it’s noncompetitive. Learning becomes a part of the jazz community here.”

Adams added: “It’s great community all based on music.”

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