Archive for July, 2010

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High School Jazz Intensive: a great experience

July 22, 2010

A couple years ago, my dad took me to see a band of young musicians called the TD High School Jazz Intensive. My dad told me that the high school musicians in the band had to audition to be in it, starting in grade 10. I actually can’t remember too much from that concert, but immediately I thought that when I reached grade 10, I would not be at the same musical level as the musicians performing in front of me.

Here I am today, a couple years later, having finished playing the jazz festival with the TD High School Jazz Intensive. It was a crazy week of playing in the jazz intensive, and I learned a lot from our director Nicole Mitchell and the people I played music with. We played songs by composers ranging from Duke Ellington to Maria Schneider. From day one, I knew that it was not only going to be a challenge for me, but for everybody as well.

Miles HSJI 2

Ever since I started playing drums, I’ve mainly been a rock drummer. My high school stage band plays songs that aren’t as challenging as what this group does, so I was pretty nervous going into this. But for myself, it was interesting to learn from the older drummer and see what he was doing stylistically. Sure, I didn’t have nearly as much experience, but I felt almost guilty at times for not knowing exactly how to play a certain groove, or know what to do in a certain musical situation. I watched and listened carefully so I could really understand the musical form and also the musicians’ interpretation.

HSJI band

I was also introduced to the music of Anthony Braxton. The song we played by him was “Composition No. 58”, which starts as a march, then turns into a really crazy time signature changing monster of a song. Although it sounds complicated, it was fun and interesting going between the different time signatures and also with the free jazz solos, including one I did.

Miles HSJI

Now that’s only one song, there were other songs that were just as complicated, if not more. From what I heard from the other musicians, Nicole chooses harder songs every year. I had never seen musicians around my age work so hard on songs. After this experience, I feel like I have to step up my game to play the best I can if I get into the band again next year. Many of the students from this year are graduating, so I’m not sure how the list of songs for next year will turn out. Whatever the songs are, if I get in, I’ll be ready.

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