Jazz Opens ‘Music In Our Schools’ Month at Waubonsie

Waubonsie Valley’s jazz ensemble performs at the Winter Jazz Concert on March 1. (photo credit/WVTV)

by Ryan Calkins, WVTV Reporter

AURORA – Waubonsie Valley kicked off ‘Music In Our Schools’ month with the winter jazz concert on March 1.

Big band, jazz band, jazz combo, and jazz ensemble all performed in the auditorium. For some student musicians, their love of jazz began in middle school or even sooner.

“For my 5th birthday, I got my first drum set,” said senior Toby Elliott. “There was a guy that my family knew and he heard that I like to like bang on the couch, and so he just donated one of his old practice sets, and I still use that one today.”

“It was really great to start learning the fundamentals of jazz because we begin by learning just the basics like the blues scale,” said senior Elise Ehlert, “and then there’s like different chords for each part of the scale. So that’s where I started to learn jazz.”

Tom Tait directs Waubonsie Valley’s jazz ensemble. (photo credit/WVTV)

In addition to ensemble, a small group of students have the opportunity to lead and grow through a jazz combo.

“Everyone has their own input on whatever we are doing because there’s no teachers so we all kind of work together to put it together the pieces that we’re doing,” said Ehlert, “and we have to go pretty quickly since we have so many different songs to learn for like all the gigs that we do. It’s really cool because we each get a chance to solo and be featured.”

“In a big band setting, I gotta stay strict on the time and play my little fills,” said Elliott, “but I can kind of get more free and have some more creative expression, but while still supporting the soloists. It’s really fun to like arrange our own songs and get to like work on our own.”

“It’s a lot of responsibility,” said senior Bhuvan Kala. “A lot of us we have to either arrange our own parts or find music. We have to lead our own rehearsals. We kind of need to like teach ourselves how to do that but it’s good. We all push ourselves to become better soloists.”

“I enjoy getting to play different music from just normal concert band music,” said Ehlert, “because in jazz there’s so many different styles that we play and getting to diversify myself as a musician has been really great.

“I’d say at a concert everyone is just glued to you,” said Kala, “but at a gig or something you’re contributing to the overall environment of that place. Their moods can be dictated by the music.”

“A lot of other schools, they’re not fortunate enough to have a director like we have or the talent that we have in district 204,” said Elliott, “and it’s really special to just make music with all my friends.”