All That Jazz: High School Band Heads to Chicago
For the second time students will play at one of the world's largest music educators gatherings.
"Stop, stop. Trumpets you have to start off lower," says Larry Green, a jazz clinician who critiques and advises the Fort Zumwalt High School Jazz Band. "If you start there, when you get to the big part in a few measures, there will be no place to go."
On the surface, this looks like just another practice for the band, but there is much more at stake today.
It's the day before Thanksgiving and instead of sleeping in or heading to the mall, the students are in the band room for practice, preparing for their upcoming trip to Chicago.
On Dec. 15, the Fort Zumwalt North Jazz Band heads to the Windy City to perform at The Midwest Clinic, an annual music educators conference that many say is one of the largest and most prestigious in the world.
Rob Babel, in his 13th year as the band director at Fort Zumwalt North, said the trip provides the opportunity for musicians and students from all over the world to listen to and learn from each other.
"It's a chance to perform in front of a very unique audience," Babel said. "There will be over 15 thousand educators from around the country and different parts of the world. The audience is very knowledgeable and it will be a different kind of performance than you would have at home."
For the students, it's more than just an opportunity to perform in an unfamiliar setting.
"There will be a lot of different college bands there which will give the students a chance to interact with college admissions officers," Babel said. "So it's a chance for them to see what's outside of O'Fallon and outside of Missouri. Just the fact that they are performing in a group at The Midwest Clinic will give them a chance to get their foot in the door at a college."
This is the second time the jazz band has been invited to The Midwest Clinic. The previous trip was in 2004. Fort Zumwalt North will be one of only three high school jazz bands performing and will take the stage with top jazz bands from Michigan State and the United States Navy.
Neither the honor, nor the opportunity is lost on the students.
"I'm kind of nervous, but I'm also very excited," pianist Kara Schrand, junior, said. "I'm looking forward to gaining performance experience and this will hopefully lead to a scholarship. This will look really good on a college resume."
Band member Brett Arnold, senior and lead tenor saxophonist, agreed.
"I'm really excited to be going to Chicago," Arnold said. "We'll be playing in front of 800 people. It's just a really big deal."