Middle school bands win honors at states

NEWPORT — The Mount Desert Elementary Jazz Band took top honors Saturday in its division at the state middle school jazz festival at Nokomis High School in Newport.

Judges awarded the 22-piece Mount Desert band first place in Division IV for its performances of “God Bless the Child,” “A Nasty Bit of Blues” and “La Negra Tiene Timbao.”

The band’s director, Heather Graves, attributed the win to the “dedication and leadership of the kids.”

“We just ended up with a fantastic group of kids,” she added.

Judges commented on the maturity of the band, the exceptional dynamics and its phrasing and intonation.

“Our rhythm section was extremely strong,” Graves said.

Graves also gives credit to Jesse Cameron, a former Mount Desert Island High School jazz musician who worked with the band to improve their sound.

Two of the band’s musicians were among five in the division that received outstanding musicianship awards, the highest individual honors awarded. Brothers Dawson and Alex Burnett received the trophies for their respective performances on drums and guitar.

The Burnett brothers and the band’s other soloists – Cadi Howell on trumpet, Peter Benson on tenor saxophone, bassist Chase McGee and pianist Camden Garland – also received top ratings for their solo work.

Tremont, with nine members, was the smallest band at the competition, yet played much larger and took third place in Division IV. The honor was especially satisfying for director Wanda Whitener, who plans to retire at the end of the year.

“I’m incredibly happy,” Tremont music director Wanda Whitener said. “What a way to go out.”

The judges praised the band for its “dynamics and blend, especially for a small group,” Whitener said. Overall, the group’s performances of “Moondog,” the standard “My Funny Valentine” and Woody Herman’s “Woodchopper’s Ball,” were “fantastic,” Whitener said.

Three soloists – trumpeter Alec Fisichella, trombonist Adam Christianson and bassist Lily Turner – were singled out for their instrumental work, Whitener said.

Fourth place in Division IV went to the Pemetic Elementary School Jazz Band. Directed by Ed Michaud, the 14-piece group performed Lee Morgan’s “Moanin’,” Sergio Mendes’ “Mas Que Nada” and the Booker T. and the MGs classic “Green Onions.”

“I’m super happy,” Michaud said. “They played clean and we had some great solos.”

Alto saxophonist Breanna Stanley, pianist Axel Eschholz and trombonist Quentin Pileggi received awards for their solos.

The 27-piece Emerson Jazz Band took second place in their division, Division III. Directed by Shane Ellis, the group performed two swing compositions, “Double or Nothing” and “Horns + Rhythm = Swing,” and two Latin-influenced tunes, “Beach Bossa” and “Cubano Chant.”

“They did an exceptional job,” Ellis said.

Judges particularly were impressed by the band’s “style and interpretation,” the high quality of the solos and the Latin percussion, Ellis said.

Solo awards went to tombonists Irene Choi and Isaac Weaver, flutists Carolyn Graber and Annabelle Walke, trumpeters Winslow Jeffrey and Molly Collins, clarinetist Rachel Carrignan, alto saxophonist Gabbie James, tenor saxophonist Katie Losquadro, pianist Sydney Eleftheriou and drummer Tristan Higgins.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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