For the past three months, musicians at Mount Desert Island High School have been rehearsing in anticipation of the school’s first trip to the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston in more than a decade. A winter storm Friday conspired to dash the students’ hopes of participating in what is arguably the most prestigious high school jazz festival in the Northeast.
“The odds were stacked against us,” music director Michael Remy recalled in a phone interview Monday.
The decision was made to push on to Boston anyway, where the 17 MDI students were among the 5,000 people to perform before judges on the campus of the Berklee School of Music.
“It’s an enormous festival,” Remy said. “We were overwhelmed by all the high school musicians.”
Listening to the music of the other attendees was an eye-opener for many of MDI students, Remy said. The level of skill and talent on display were inspiring.
“On the bus coming back, everyone was talking about their game plan for getting better on their instrument,” Remy said.
Two groups from MDI – the big band Darth and a combo, 6 Out of 10, – performed at the festival. Both groups came in sixth in their respective classes. Darth was one of 16 bands in its class; 15 groups performed in the combo category.
The judges were impressed, especially by the trumpet and trombone players in Darth.
“They were taken aback by the power of our brass,” Remy said.
Darth’s lead trumpeter Hannah Edgecomb was awarded an outstanding musicianship award.
The combo is a quartet consisting of Ethan Craigo on piano, Breaux Higgins on guitar, Will Miller on bass and Kevin Elk, drums. These students have been performing together for several years and have developed a musical affinity that wasn’t lost on the judges.
“They have a definite vibe that the judges sensed,” Remy said.
Miller earned an outstanding musicianship award for his work with the combo.
The Boston trip should serve as a good warm-up for the Maine high school jazz festival competition in March.