Two Upper West Side bands are going head to head at the prestigious Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival, taking place March 10 in Boston.
Trevor Day School’s ensemble and the Calhoun School Jazz Band are competing for top honors at the event, at which more than 3,000 artists and students will perform at the Hynes Convention Center. Participants will compete for more than $175,000 in scholarships to Berklee’s five-week summer program.
This is Trevor Day School’s 10th time participating in the Festival. Tim Otto, music teacher and head of band at the school, said that the event has become a sort of tradition. There are seven students in the school’s band, chosen from various advanced players in the school. Music and art are a main focus of Trevor’s curriculum.
“A lot of our kids who have been in the school since nursery school have had musical training throughout their whole lives,” he said. Otto has taught at the school for over 20 years and is a musician himself. He prepares his students with rehearsal time as well as encouraging them to listen to a lot of music.
“The whole day [at the festival] is pretty exciting. It’s great to take the kids so they can be exposed to their peers.” The band will play three pieces: No Problem by Art Blakey and two Duke Ellington recordings, Caravan and Jeep’s Blues.
Eric Marcus, a senior and band member, has been playing guitar since 3rd grade. This is his second trip to the festival. “It’s a lot of fun. After we’re done, we get to see some other really really talented bands from art-specific schools.”
Victor Lin is the head of jazz studies at the Calhoun School. It’s a program he started five years ago. “When I first started here, there was no jazz program. We sort of started it from scratch.” He is a classical violinist and pianist and has been teaching for over 10 years. The band practices three times a week at 7:30 a.m.
“Ostensibly we are supposed to be going up there for a competition, but really it’s just about the opportunity to travel someplace, play music as best they can, come back and say, ‘Yeah, I did that,’” he said.
This is the band’s first appearance at the festival. The eight students will perform one original blues piece written by a band member, Four on Six by Wes Montgomery and, venturing into pop culture, a jazz version of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.
Gabe Simon, a junior who plays bass, would love to be a professional musician. Learning how to play music by ear has challenged him.
“One of my favorite things right now is to sit at home and put on the radio just to see if I can figure out the noted parts of the song,” he said.
Kyra Louie, a senior and the only female in the band, plays tenor saxophone and has been playing music since the 5th grade. She is growing more confident with the help of her band members, who push her with friendly competition. “Everyone pushes each other. It’s kind of like a second family,” she said.
Founded in 1969, the Berklee High School Jazz Festival runs the entire day, from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., with the winning ensemble announced at 6 p.m.
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