Where can you hear a band… a big one, in a small room, with 10 trumpets, eight trombones, 11 saxophones, a percussion section with a full drum set and congas, guitars, a vibraphone, two stand up basses and a piano, with professionals and students playing Woody Herman’s “Four Brothers”? Or hear a host of bands play everything from standards like Duke Ellington’s Satin Doll and Count Basie’s Shiny Stockings to songs with offbeat titles like “Blues and the Abscessed Tooth?”
Easy questions to answer if you were at Coronado High School’s CoSA JazzFest this past Saturday, May 6. Over 20 bands performed all day in the Band Room, Main and Black Box Theaters, under the kind scrutiny of judge panels, who taught more than they judged. 12 bands also signed up for the additional extraordinary experience of the “salt and pepper” clinics. These clinics pair top professional players side by side with high school counterparts, providing wisdom and skill tips earned over a career in the business.
The noon-time San Diego State Jazz Band concert was the big hit of the day, with an appreciative audience of several hundred in the Main Theater. To the delight of the crowd, in SDSU’s final number “Blues and the Abscessed Tooth,” the band tore it up. Their leader, Karl Soukup, former CoSA instructor and current Interim Director of the SDSU Jazz program, welcomed the return of the event saying, “…I am just so happy it is back, after the pandemic, and to see all the smiling jazz students out there, just absorbing the energy of the concert…the talented and creative players who practiced and worked so hard all semester, who take their music seriously and who represent the quality of musical education and the arts. It was very heartening to see and experience.”
These were just some of the treats the day delivered. A sense of joy drifted across every venue at CHS. Joy that came from the resurrection of the JazzFest, dormant since 2019. Joy that came from students, who by all accounts, participated in one of the best jazz events in Southern California. And joy from the music/jazz educators who coached and led these fine bands to the competition; who welcomed the resumption of this highly regarded festival.
Huntington Beach Jazz Band Director Greg Gilboe, whose band has competed in the Coronado JazzFest many times was thrilled to be back. He shared that “…the students and families love coming to this event. The atmosphere here is very positive for all the jazz players, more than any of the other jazz festivals in which we play. They are surrounded by lots of other fellow musicians; they get to hear them play, in small and large groups and the SDSU band. The ‘salt and pepper’ clinic is truly special, and it’s been a truly fun and memorable weekend of jazz for the kids.” For Greg this is also a family affair as his wife Sandra is the Director of the Costa Mesa Jazz Ensemble, whose band also competed in the JazzFest.
When asked why he continues to show up at the Coronado JazzFest, Bill Yeager, Director Emeritus of the Jazz Studies program at San Diego State, and the leader of “salt and pepper” clinics for 30 years noted, “For me and the ‘pros’ out there in the Band Room, this a way of paying back, sharing their experience and enthusiasm with these young players, and helping to keep jazz alive.” As an aside, Bill has played trombone with many of the greats including Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and many more.
Coronado’s two home entries into the JazzFest acquitted themselves smartly. One of the main judges at the event noted that, “The Coronado Jazz ensembles were nicely prepared with a great choice of literature (songs). And they were attentive to the judges’ comments and suggestions about their performances, so it was an excellent educational experience for them. The best part is that they played well together, and it was fun listening to them.”
The results of the competition, as adjudicated by the distinguished panel of professional musicians and educators were as follows:
Advanced High School:
1st: Valley Center High School Jazz Band (Unanimous Superior)
2nd: Poway High School Jazz A (Unanimous Superior)
3rd: Del Norte High School Jazz A (Unanimous Superior)
Intermediate High School:
1st: The Bishop’s School Honors Combo (Unanimous Superior)
2nd: Poway High School Jazz B (Unanimous Superior)
3rd: Costa Mesa Jazz I (Unanimous Superior)
Novice High School:
1st: Huntington Beach High School Jazz Lab Band (Unanimous Superior)
2nd: Del Norte Nighthawk Lab Jazz (Unanimous Superior)
3rd: 32nd St. Jazz Band – St. Augustine High School (Excellent)
1st: Valley Center Middle School Jazz Band (Unanimous Superior)
2nd: Hollencrest Middle School Jazz Band (Excellent)
In closing, Dr. Andrew Steinberg, Director of the JazzFest, philosophically suggested that, “Saturday was a powerful reminder of all that the arts can be, and the impact it has on each and every one of us. From the dozens of volunteers who devoted countless hours, to the judges and clinicians who dedicated themselves to these young artists, it was clear that Coronado JazzFest is something special and is back for a reason. What will stick with me most is the SDSU Jazz Ensemble’s closing number, and how the audience couldn’t help but clap along with the group’s insatiable energy. When music moves you like that, you know there’s something magical going on, and it’s something I look forward to being part of again and again!”
Yes indeed Dr. Steinberg, the beat goes on. According to the word on the street, many plans are already being made for 2024.
All photos by Andy Koczon