Alain Zhang of the Conners Emerson jazz band solos last week at the annual Island Jazz Night concert at Mount Desert High School. The Conners Emerson band is one of five groups from the school system headed to the March 25 state middle school jazz festival at Stearns High School in Millinocket. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MARK GOOD

Middle school bands head to state festival

Jazz musicians from the island’s four K-8 schools and their counterparts in Trenton are heading to the Maine Instrumental Jazz Festival after turning in exemplary performances Friday at the district festival at the Brewer Community School.

Bands from schools in Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, Tremont and Trenton all received either a one or two rating from judges at the district festival and next will demonstrate their musical skills at the state festival on Saturday, March 25, at Stearns High School in Millinocket.

The Conners Emerson jazz band, directed by Gene Gill, received a one rating for its performances of Quincy Jones’ “Birth of a Band,” Luiz Bonfa’s bossa nova “A Day in the Life of a Fool” and “Cute,” a Neal Hefti chart popularized by Count Basie. The band received a first place in its division at last year’s state festival.

Judges commended the band on its “big, powerful sound,” Gill said.

Alto saxophonist Alain Zhang, pianist Edward Choi, bassist Jacob Lurvey, trumpet player Molly Collins, baritone saxophonist Sabine Costello-Sanders and drummer Massimo Daul each received a one rating for their solo work. Sadie Sullivan was awarded a two rating for her trumpet solo.

The 24-member Mount Desert Elementary jazz band, which took top honors at the 2016 state festival, is heading back to defend its crown. The band, directed by Heather Graves, received a one rating from judges on Friday for their performances of “Blue Madness,” Count Basie’s “Blue and Sentimental” and “Mambo Hot.”

All soloists in the band received one ratings. They are guitarist Alex Burnett, alto saxophonist Jane Pope, trombonists Brendan Graves and Reider Watson, and Sarah Knox and Leao Nelson on trumpets.

According to Graves, one judge was so impressed that he told the band that his high school students “couldn’t play this as well as you did.”

The Pemetic jazz band, directed by Ed Michaud, received a two rating for its performances of the samba “Brazil,” Oliver Nelson’s jazz classic “Stolen Moments” and a Tuvan folk song, “Dyngyldai.”

Michaud has said he was inspired to write an arrangement of “Dyngyldai” after a visit to the remote Russian republic and hearing it performed live at a music festival.

The unusual set of music impressed the judges.

“They loved our programming, saying it was interesting and fresh music,” Michaud said. The band also was praised for “playing with a lot of power.”

Three musicians were singled out for top ratings for their solos: alto saxophonist Jacob Peabody, trombonist Quentin Pileggi and trumpet player Sylvester Mays. Pileggi and Mays were featured soloists on “Stolen Moments” and the Tuvan folk song.

Director Allison Putnam said her Tremont Consolidated School jazz band impressed the judges despite its small size, and that the band looks forward to playing at the state festival.

The band performed “Free Ride,” which had trumpet solos by Cedar Ellis and Alicia Thurston. Hoagy Carmichael’s enduring “Georgia on My Mind” featured solos by Kalenna Higgins and Hannah St. Armand on tenor saxophones, Ellis and Thurston on trumpets and Eliza Ramos on alto saxophone. Closing the band’s set was Herbie Hancock’s funk tune “Chameleon,” which has solos by Ramos and Thurston.

This is the first year the Trenton Elementary School has fielded a jazz band, and their performance at the district festival earned them a trip to the states. Directed by Mary de Koning, the 17-member group played the Weather Report tune “Birdland,” “Blue Midnight” and Bobby Troupe’s classic “Route 66.” Soloists were alto saxophonist Philip Catanese, pianist Louis Philbrook, tenor saxophonist Maggie Nadeau and Zander McCannis on trumpet.


Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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