Alto saxophonist Jane Pope stands for a solo during a recent performance of the Mount Desert Elementary School jazz band. The band and four others from the school system played Saturday at the Maine Middle School State Jazz Festival in Millinocket. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MARK GOOD

School bands swing at states

Young musicians from the Mount Desert Island school system hit some high notes Saturday at the Maine Middle School State Instrumental Jazz Festival in Millinocket.

Bands from schools in Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, Tremont and Trenton performed at the state festival, held at Stearns High School.

For this year’s festival, the Maine Music Educators eliminated the traditional first-, second- and third-place awards and have gone to a scoring system with four categories: gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention, determined by points awarded by judges. Groups getting 95 to 100 points receive a gold rating; 90 to 94, silver; 85 to 89, bronze; and 80 to 84, honorable mention.

The Conners Emerson jazz band, directed by Gene Gill, received a bronze award in Division 3 for performing 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.

Drummer Massimo Daul’s use of brushes on “Cute” landed him an outstanding musicianship award, Gill said.

Daul and the other soloists in the band – alto saxophonist Alain Zhang, pianist Edward Choi, bassist Jacob Lurvey, trumpet players Molly Collins and Sadie Sullivan, and baritone saxophonist Sabine Costello-Sanders – each received a one rating, which is the highest.

“I think everyone played extremely well,” Gill said.

Hannah St. Amand plays the tenor saxophone during a performance earlier this month. The Tremont Consolidated School musician was one of many from the school system to perform at the state middle school jazz festival at Stearns High School. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MARK GOOD

The other bands in the school system performed in Division 4.

The 24-member Mount Desert Elementary jazz band received a silver rating from the judges despite some health issues, said director Heather Graves.

“A third of my band was sick and still rose to the occasion,” she said.

Two of the Mount Desert musicians, guitarist Alex Burnett and drummer Treyan Nelson, were singled out for outstanding musicianship awards. Burnett, alto saxophonist Jane Pope, trombonists Brendan Graves and Reider Watson, and trumpet players Leao Nelson and Sarah Knox received one ratings for their solos.

The band performed “Blue Madness,” “Blue and Sentimental” and “Mambo Hot.”

Judges commended the band for its “energy” and “musical conception,” Graves said.

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

Michaud 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. On Saturday, trombonist Quentin Pileggi played a three-string Tuvan instrument called a doshpuluur on the song, certainly a first for the festival.

The mix of music impressed the judges, Michaud said.

“The judges really liked that our program was fresh and different from what other bands were playing,” he said.

Pileggi, trumpet player Sylvester Mays and alto saxophonists Weston Granholm and Jacob Peabody were awarded one ratings for their solos.

The bands from Tremont and Trenton also received honorable mentions.

The Tremont Consolidated School jazz band performed “Free Ride,” “Georgia on My Mind” and “Chameleon.”

“The growth this group has shown over the past year is remarkable,” said the band’s director, Allison Putnam.

Cedar Ellis, who performed on drums and trumpet, received an outstanding musicianship award. Soloists receiving one ratings were Ellis, tenor saxophonists Kalenna Higgins and Hannah St. Amand, alto saxophonist Eliza Ramos and Alicia Thurston on trumpet.

This is the first year the Trenton Elementary School has fielded a jazz band. Directed by Mary de Koning, the 17-piece group received an honorable mention for their performances of “Birdland,” “Blue Midnight” and Bobby Troupe’s classic “Route 66.” Information on the band’s individual awards was not available by press time.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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