BAR HARBOR — Mount Desert Island High School’s two big bands and four combos are moving on to the state instrumental jazz festival after scoring big last week at the regional competition.
Musicians from schools in Hancock, Washington and Penobscot counties performed Feb. 26 at the District VI festival at the Brewer Community School in Brewer.
Bands receiving a I or II rating from judges move on to the March 13-14 state jazz festival at South Portland High School.
Three groups from MDI received I ratings, the big band Big Group (formerly known as Darth) and the combos Goo Swisper and Haymbeg, according to music director Michael Remy.
“We had some of the highest ratings I’ve ever seen,” Remy said.
The big band Somes Sound and the combos Mailmen and Jeanna Beeck received “high” II ratings, he added.
The school also garnered a busload of individual musicianship awards, which are given to performers whose solo efforts are seen by judges as exemplary.
“There are too many to name,” Remy said. “Without an exception, every soloist received an award.”
Even more impressive were the comments from judges, Remy said. Their compliments extended beyond the critique sessions.
“[One judge] stopped me in the hall and said he hadn’t heard a band like that in a long time,” Remy said.
The judge was referring to Big Group, which recently performed at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston. The judge praised the 17-piece band for its sense of swing as it negotiated tunes like Sammy Nestico’s “Hay Burner,” a tune made famous by the Count Basie Orchestra, and the challenging romp, “Sweet Georgia Brown Upside Down.”
Remy said he is pleased with the feedback all of the groups received.
“They were really taken aback by all the musicians,” he said of the judges.
Jazz at MDI High School no longer ends with the state competition. Remy said he encourages the young musicians to play as many gigs outside the school as possible and notes that various groups are available to perform at functions.
“Jazz is now a year-round activity on MDI,” he proclaimed.
Some of those musicians can be heard Friday in Northeast Harbor. Three combos are to perform from 8-9 p.m. at the First Friday Coffeehouse at the Northeast Harbor Library.