Jazz ensemble prepares for conference


Band students relax at their banquet earlier this month.

With school back in session, the various school bands are also getting back into the swing of things. While most of the bands are just going back to routine procedures, the jazz ensemble, led by Band Director Nathan Griffin are preparing for the 2016 Missouri Music Educators Association Conference at the end of the month.

The conference, which takes place from Jan. 27 to Jan. 30, is a meeting between many of the state’s school band directors and music educators as they discuss how the year has gone for musical education. According to Mr. Griffin, there are also performances by student bands from across the state who have to apply to participate in the conference.

“The band has to record itself and send a tape in. All of these auditions are judged by former band teachers from outside of the state, and if you get in, they call and inform you,” Mr. Griffin said.

This year, the jazz ensemble is one of those groups that will have the honor of appearing at the 2016 MMEA Conference. Mr. Griffin said that this is a prestigious occurrence for the jazz ensemble.

“We found out over the summer,” Mr. Griffin said. “It is basically the band equivalent of a state competition. There’s nothing better. It’s the pinnacle. We are the only jazz group in the conference this year.”

This is the first time that an FHC band has ever gone to the conference, and it is one of the few times that a band from the Francis Howell School District has ever gotten in as well. Because of this, Mr. Griffin and the jazz ensemble have been hard at work in order to prepare.

“We work a ton. We’ve probably been working since November,” Mr. Griffin said. “They’ve given up some of their days off school in order to practice. We had a night rehearsal back in November. We have even practiced with professional jazz musicians.”

According to Mr. Griffin, the students have mixed feelings about performing at the conference.

“They’re feeling a combination of things,” Mr. Griffin said. “You can sense that they’re excited about it, but they are also feeling pressure because this isn’t a performance for family and friends who will like it no matter what. It’s for educators who understand music and know what’s going on.”

Mr. Griffin explained that performing for these educators can also prove to be beneficial for the students as well.

“These people are critical, but they also understand the kind of pressure that these kids are under. They know how difficult these performances are, so they can be a bit of a supportive audience,” Mr. Griffin said.

Regardless of what happens, the jazz ensemble is still ready to go and continues to prepare for the 2016 MMEA Conference.