An annual jazz festival helps students hone their musical skills.
The conversations held in the theater of Monroe Community College last week consisted of some unusual words and a language not typically shared with the average ears.
Phrases like “You’ve got to dig into the music a little bit” and “Get inside the sound, not on top of the sound” were thrown back and forth as young musicians conversed with judges during the college’s 39th annual Jazz Fest April 23, where five jazz bands from area schools came to share their passion for music and learn more about their craft. In between chatting that included musical explanations in the form of speaking rhythms and shouting out dynamics, students said taking part in the festival was a key part of their learning process.
“We always learn new things to develop in band and we always get new ideas from judges to experiment with,” said Dave Daggett, a senior alto saxophone player at Spencerport High School.
“The feedback we get is the most important thing,” added Daggett’s classmate, Kelsey Sharp, a trumpet player.
Over the course of the day, bands from schools in Ontario and Monroe counties performed songs for adjudicators Clay Jenkins and Jeff Campbell, faculty members at University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. Following each school’s set, the two professors would spend time on stage with each band talking to them about their performance and running through sections of songs.
“We live and breathe this music and this is music they just don’t go home and listen to,” Jenkins said. “We want to show them that if you play the music you’ve got to really listen to it.”
Jenkins said the suggestions he and Campbell make can’t fix everything, but they do often help to reinforce criticism that the band may hear from their conductor of fellow players. That, he said, helps to drive home the message and helps to make the students better musicians.
Colton Freitas, an eighth-grade trombone player in the Gates-Chili Middle School jazz band, said the group has always received good advice from playing in the MCC Jazz Fest like how to control their sound “and to just let it all come out.”
“They said you should think (of playing) like a story,” Freitas said. “You’re trying to tell a story through music.”
At the end of the festival, Jenkins and Campbell handed out some awards to musicians, but Gates-Chili eighth-grader Ryan Vane said that’s not why his band came to play.
“We’re going to have some fun and maybe win a couple things — that’d be good — but we’re just here to get positive feedback to make the band a little better,” he said.
Bryan Roth can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 270, or at email@example.com.