From Thursday, Jan. 8 through Sunday, Jan. 11, Urban’s Advanced Jazz Band, consisting of 25 students and three teacher chaperones, attended the Jazz Education Network conference and festival located at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, California. At the festival and conference, high school and college students were able to observe performances, participate in musical critiques, and sit in on educational classes designed for student musicians.
“We had two professional musicians (at our critique) that listened to our set and gave us feedback, told us what we were doing good, and where we could make improvements,” said Scott Foster, leader of the Advanced Jazz Band and one of the chaperones.
“I think (the critique) was a success because we learned stuff that we weren’t going to learn just from our parents sitting in the audience and clapping for no matter what we did. We had to earn it … which was a really cool experience,” said alto saxophonist Max Wellins (‘16).
Beginning at 9 a.m. the students were able to take part in many of the activities offered at the festival. “We had the opportunity to visit rooms that were just talking about how to play the piano better and other rooms that were full, big bands performing, and then the concerts at night, which were a variety of different performances,” said Foster.
One highlight of the trip that many found exciting was the exhibit hall of the hotel, where countless instruments were only display. “There was pretty much every sax, and pretty much every instrument company had a booth there, and you just had your mouthpiece and neck strap and you could try out any instrument that they had,” said Wellins.
Additionally, there were late night jam sessions that began at 12 a.m. and, Foster believes, ended at 1:30 a.m.
Members of the Advanced Jazz band believed that the trip was full of good memories, valuable lessons, and gave them a new appreciation for types of jazz with which they did not have much experience.
“A lot of the time, I feel kind of disconnected when we play jazz at Urban, but we got to meet and network with other people from all over the country,” said flutist Frieda Baldonado (‘16). “I think I was just really impressed by not only the scale but just the richness of the jazz community, both in diversity and in the sheer skill that was represented there, and the willingness to learn and improve.”