The Beloit Memorial High School (BMHS) Jazz Orchestra brought home several awards after it performed virtually at the 25th Annual Essentially Ellington Festival in New York City on Friday.
Awards were as follows: Olivia Garcia, Honorable Mention Trumpet; Naoki Nikora, Outstanding Doubler for clarinet/baritone; and Outstanding Clarinet Trio to Hanna Wolf, Sydnee Galvin and Naoki Nikora.
“I’m amazed at what students can do when given the opportunity. This was a really young band—no one expected us to go back to Essentially Ellingonton this year. I’m so proud of their efforts, how they came together as a group and the seriousness they have for this music. It is inspiring,” BMHS Jazz Orchestra Director Chris Behrens said.
BMHS Jazz Orchestra was one of 23 bands performing virtually at Ellington this year.
Behrens explained the virtual performance included one of the three recordings the band had originally submitted for the competition. The orchestra played “The Mooche” by Duke Ellington composed in 1928.
During the virtual performance, a video and photos were displayed of the orchestra and each member. Those who would like to watch it can visit https://www.facebook.com/EssentiallyEllington/videos/564763824240132 on Behren’s Facebook page.
After the virtual performance students Garcia and senior trombonist Caleb Otto along withBehrens and Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis had a Zoom call where they discussed the performance.
“We are grateful to Jazz at Lincoln Center for doing this. It was still a good event and experience and closure for the year. We got some great feedback from Wynton Marsalis,” Otto said.
Senior Olivia Garcia, who plays trumpet, said she was glad the festival wasn’t cancelled.
“They really tried to put something together. Marsalis gave us some tips as individual sections, trying to have us connect the sections and find the sweet spot,” Garcia said.
Garcia, who went to Ellington in person last year, said it was a fun and exciting experience to do live.
“We have a lot of underclassmen in our band, an I hope they get to experience it next year,” Garcia said
Garcia will attend Northern Illinois University for music education to become a music teacher.
She said jazz orchestra helped her as a person and opened up her world to music.
“It helps my confidence overall. It made me find my voice, and it’s a great way to make friends. Some of my best friends are in jazz,” she said.
Otto, who plays trombone, plans to attend the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities to study engineering and will enter the U.S. Marines after college. He hopes to see if he can perform with a jazz or marching band in college.
He had been on the New York trip in person twice before after being in jazz band at the middle school level at Aldrich and Fruzen and three years in high school. He said the jazz program helped with his work ethic and ability to juggle multiple responsibilities.
“It’s definitely a lot of time and effort, especially when juggling other advanced placement classes and varsity sports. You have to learn how to deal with it and jazz helps. It was the one constant through four years,” he said.
Otto said it gave him and other students an outlet to express themselves, important during the high school years.
“It’s given a lot of kids a way to let it out in a beneficial way,” he said.