The “World Series” of high school jazz is taking place right now at New York’s Lincoln Center. And one of the finalists in the Essentially Ellington competition is from Southlake, Texas. KERA talked to the young musicians at Carroll Senior High School about getting ready for the big show.
For the band’s pianist, 18-year-old Ray Teer, what’s priceless is being in the big apple with his band-mates, performing for the Wynton Marsalis.
“This music, and the swing, and the things that you learn from this music are so applicable to everyday life,” Teer said. “And they really just become a part of you. Not necessarily in a competition aspect, but the relationships and the bonds that you create with your band-mates are really more important to us than any number placement.”
More than a 100 high school combos from across the country competed for the 15 coveted spots.
“The ideas of Ellington,” Teer said. “The fun, and the swing, the rhythm and the groove, really carry over into all music today, whether its rock, or hip hop or pop or of course jazz.”
Jazz at Lincoln Center has given original Duke Ellington Orchestra and other big band charts to high schools across the country for nearly two decades. Carroll’s Jazz director David Lown says it’s all about the Duke.
“I think he’s America’s greatest composer,” Lown said. “And it really is rewarding to get to see students go from, as eighth and ninth graders, not knowing anything about him, as a composer. Not knowing anything about his music, how to perform it, stylistically, to what you hear now.”
The Texas students spent Thursday jamming with other high school bands, and attending music workshops with jazz greats. The first round of competition started today.
“Right now, I don’t think they’re too nervous,” Lown said. “I’m kinda keeping my eye on them a little bit because it’s difficult to get up there, on stage, with judges looking at you. It’s streamed live. I’m doing what I can to just reinforce that it’s not about winning anything. It’s not a football game, it’s just a performance where you’re going to have fun.”
“This is the tightest knit group of guys that I could ever ask for, these are definitely my best friends.”
That’s senior Chris Weisberg. He plays trumpet and is the band’s vocalist.
“Everyday, everyday I have the blues. Everyday, everyday I have the blues…if you see me worried baby, you know it’s me I’d have to lose….(Xaykaothao) Do the words, and the music combined, what does it do for you? (Weisberg) Jazz is a lot about telling a story, I think. And the thing is with jazz, is it’s so different for really everyone, so maybe I get something in the music that the same music someone else is not going gonna get. And I still don’t understand it, but it’s still my favorite music.”