BLUE HILL — For the first time, the Mount Desert Island High School jazz program earned a sweep of the district high school jazz festival last week with “1” ratings for all five combos and both big bands.
The festival came on Wednesday of the first week back at school after February break.
“Everyone was pretty panicked” about getting ready and getting back in the swing after the vacation, music teacher Michael Remy said. So, all five combos rehearsed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 5: 30 a.m. — spreading out throughout the school and cobbling together enough drum sets so they could all be playing at the same time.
“Those combos all just took ownership and rehearsed like maniacs throughout the week,” he said, “and it’s the only time we’ve ever swept with all ‘1’s.”
Many of the musicians were also rehearsing for the district show choir festival Friday. They also traveled to Portland to play in the pep band for the girls’ basketball state championship Saturday.
This year the school fielded two big bands, “Big Group” (a standard-sized big band with 19 members) and “NO NET” (a nonet). There actually were enough students in the program for three full-sized big bands this year, Remy said, but there weren’t enough trombone players.
So instead, five smaller combos were formed. These include “Plop,” “Pulp” and “Patty,” a trio of groups who did some work together. Then there is “Department of Justice,” named for drummer Duncan Justice, and “OMLRATA,” which Remy said stands for “oceans’ mist and the long road to tranquility and atonement.”
“They wanted the name to sound like an 80s emo band,” he explained.
The day before the district festival, the high school students hosted Island Jazz Night, a showcase for the middle school jazz programs at Conners Emerson, Mount Desert Elementary, Pemetic, Tremont and Trenton schools. Members of the Tri-M national music honor society at MDIHS serve as stage managers for the performance and do all the behind-the-scenes work.
“It’s really fun for us to host the middle schoolers and give them positive feedback,” Remy said.
Up next for the jazz program, Big Group will be participating in the Clark Terry Jazz Fest this weekend at the University of New Hampshire. The following week is the state instrumental jazz festival.