Adams’ Soundsational Night of Jazz

Cole Cleveland, Reporter

Jazz Soundsations, a crazy night full of jazz bands and music, was hosted by John Adams on February 15th. Headlined by local jazz musicians Stephen and Mary Merriman and Todd Neuenschwander. School bands from all across South Bend performed iconic jazz songs.
Throughout the day, the students were able to participate in a series of clinics aimed to improve their jazz-playing skills. These clinics began with each band playing their set-list for the night’s upcoming concert. From there, the Merrimans’ and Todd broke down the key pieces of each song and what the band could do to improve their performance. Todd would also play along with each band on his saxophone. Stephen Merriman, a drummer, would typically give his tips to the percussion players and Mary Merriman, a bassist, would generally share advice to the string players.
After all of the bands played, a clinic was given about improvising solos. An improvised solo is when a player creates a solo without reading any music and playing whatever they think will sound good. This clinic helped explain how to form strong and original improvised solos. Todd Neuenschwander explained how chords fit into solos and how you can make solos sound good within the song you are playing in. This was the last clinic before the concert began.
John Adams’ Jazz 3, directed by Danni-Jo Rausch, opened up the concert with a mix of classic songs by the hit band Earth, Wind and Fire. This funk classic mixes the songs “Let’s Groove”, “Boogie Wonderland” and “Sing A Song”. They then followed it up by playing “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby. Multiple members of Jazz 3 said they performed ‘not their best’ but they were excited to be the opening piece of the concert.
Following Jazz 3, LaSalle Academy, directed by Dawn Forsythe, played 3 songs. They opened with “Deacon Jack’s Gospel Shack ” a swing-jazz piece by Paul Murtha. After, they played “Round Midnight” , a very brass-filled song by Thelonious Monk; and they finished their set with “The Chicken” , a fast-paced tune by Alfred Ellis, arranged by Mike Story.
John Adams’ Jazz 2, directed by Emily Pantelleria, was next to perform. Their set started with “Tenor Madness” an uptempo swing jazz tune, followed by “Angel Eyes” a smooth jazz piece by Matt Dennis and Earl Brent. At the end of their set-list was “Indigo Hippo” a fun and upbeat jazz tune loved by Jazz 2. Jazz 2 members said they thought their performance was ‘one of the best they have played in a while’ and the entire band spoke highly of the soloists who performed in their set.
Ché Brueseke, a student who has filled in as director, led Riley next in the concert. They played 3 popular songs, starting with jazz classic “Caravan”, followed by “Pink Panther” and they finished with the popular Paul Simon song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” arranged by Paul Baker. They played these hit songs very well and had great soloists to lead the way.
To finish off the concert, John Adams’ Jazz 1 took the stage. They opened with “Jefferson Blues” by Doug Beach. One member stated that it was one of their performances of the piece. Next, they played the hit classic “Blue Rondo A La Turk” and took the audience by surprise, as they loved every minute of it. They finished the concert with “Steamsville” by Mark Taylor, a smooth swing piece.
“…having Jazz Soundsations is a very unique event for all the bands across our school district. We get to learn from each other, and judge each other to be better” David Pine, an Adams’ Jazz 1 trumpet player, said about the event and how it helped him become a better musician. Almost every member of Adams’ Jazz bands agreed that they learned a lot from the event and they hope that it returns to Adams again next year.
Overall, Jazz Soundsations was a massive success for South Bend Community School Corporation’s bands and helped a lot of young musicians develop new skills and learn lessons they can use throughout their playing time. It was a great experience for the musicians, who got to nurture their love for jazz and for the audience, who got to hear a night filled with great music and moments. We hope Jazz Soundsations can make a return next year!