About the Moeller Jazz Program
The Moeller Jazz Band is an extra-curricular ensemble whose members are chosen by audition. In addition to performing at the Christmas and Spring concerts, the Jazz Band travels to various cities to participate in Jazz Festivals, including at least one overnight trip.
Participation in the Moeller Jazz Program is open to players of all instruments. The standard big band instrumentation is: 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 alto saxes, 2 tenor saxes, 1 bari sax, and one each of piano, guitar, bass, and drums. We usually take an extra player on each instrument. Students who play other instruments, such as flute or clarinet, are encouraged to learn a standard jazz instrument. Saxophones are encouraged to learn “doubles”: flute and/or clarinet. Any instrument may be used for jazz improvisation and combo. (See below). We will rehearse for several weeks before holding auditions. This gives all students a chance to learn the style, allows me to observe students on a daily basis as a supplement to the audition. Auditions will be used for part placement. If we have too many players in a section, we may have to make cuts.
Jazz Big Band and Combo meets from October into April. Winter sports that practice after school, such as basketball and wrestling, will have schedule conflicts, and students must choose one activity or the other. In the past, students participating in hockey, lacrosse, or ski team have been able to participate in Jazz Band. Communication and comparing of performance schedules are very important.
The Jazz Big Band will rehearse on Tuesdays, and Thursdays, (with occasional Wednesdays before a big performance) either in sectionals or full rehearsal.
Students who are interested in developing their soloing skills to higher level can study Advanced Improvisation on Wednesdays. Students may play any instrument, even “non-jazz” instruments, in this group. If enough qualified students, including rhythm section players, are interested, this group will perform in public as the Moeller Jazz Combo. If not, these students will be featured prominently as soloists in the Big Band.
Moeller Jazz Curriculum
Jazz is a unique art form developed by Americans in the twentieth century. Knowledgeable critics have called it “America’s only original art form,” and “America’s classical music.” Over the years, jazz has absorbed many influences and evolved into many styles. It is the aim of the Moeller Jazz Program to expose the students to a wide variety of styles through performing and listening. These include Dixieland, Swing, Bebop, Jazz-rock fusion, and various Latin (Brazilian and Afro-Cuban) Styles.
Students learn the history of jazz the fun way: by listening to and emulating the past masters, and, when possible, actually playing their music. For example, we often play “real” charts from the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands, as well as excellent arrangements of classics for high school band. Modern, “hot-off-the-press” charts are also performed, so that students are aware of current trends in music.
Students learn music theory the fun way: by mastering scales and chords on their instruments (not just on paper) and then using these as building blocks for creating their own music!
All students in the jazz program will have the opportunity to learn the craft of improvisation. Improvisation is spontaneous composition, and has been a defining element in jazz from the beginning of its history. The great classical masters- Bach, Mozart, Beethoven- were all famous for their improvisations. Today’s great jazz musicians are simply carrying on a centuries-old tradition. All students will have the opportunity to take chances in a supportive, non-threatening, creative environment. All students will be encouraged, but never forced, to solo on public concerts. Students will also perform written solos, which provide good stylistic examples, and can be used as springboards to creativity.
Jazz Band and Combo are select, extra-curricular ensembles. Students participate for the chance to play great music with other dedicated students who are interested in taking on new challenges. Students do not receive academic credit, nor does participation affect their band class grade. In addition to the good times and rewarding experiences, students receive a letter at the spring Band Banquet.
Because we are a team in a very real sense, students must make a commitment to each other and to the group. To help ensure the success of the group, the following policies will be in effect:
- Attendance at all scheduled practices is required.
- Excused absences are the same as for Marching and Symphonic Band (Please see complete list in the Band Handbook). Other school activities, such as language club, student government, pastoral ministry, etc. will be excused if one week notice is given. If a student begins to fall behind or affect the performance of the group because of excused absences, he or she may lose their part to an alternate and/or lose solos. In extreme cases, the student may be counseled to discontinue participation.
- One unexcused absence (i.e. school detention, scheduling a driver’s ed appointment, etc.) will be forgiven. An alternate assignment will be given. A second unexcused absence will result in a conference with the director and possible dismissal from the group.
- Students must prepare their part. For the entire group to progress, each member must make a commitment to practice outside of rehearsal. It is understood that students in jazz band are often the most dedicated musicians, and have other musical commitments such as private lessons, college auditions, honors groups, etc. A minimum expectation would be to practice jazz music two nights a week (the night before a jazz rehearsal, so you come prepared the next day).
- All policies in the Moeller Handbook are in effect for jazz band. In addition, the Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Policies of Moeller High School are in effect at all times, including overnight trips.
It is our goal to provide all students with a musically rewarding experience, and to have the Moeller Jazz Program be recognized as one of the finest in the region. Following these policies will help make this a reality.