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MVC jazz band festival: KC jazz greats encourage area middle and high school musicians

Monday, January 21, 2013

Missouri Valley College Instrumental Music Director Garry Anders welcomes area middle and high school jazz bands to the sixth annual MVC Jazz Band Festival Saturday, Jan. 19.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News) [Order this photo]
They put on a clinic, and then they demonstrated how it is done.

Kansas City jazz musicians Bobby Watson and Clarence Smith served as judges Saturday, Jan. 19, for the sixth annual Missouri Valley College Jazz Festival, and the musicians from six area middle and high school jazz bands not only received advice from the masters but got to see them in action.

The festival always concludes with a performance by the MVC Jazz Ensemble, and this year, the judges took the stage with the band -- Watson leading on alto sax and Smith on drums -- for a performance of the Dizzy Gillespie classic, "Manteca."

Clarence Smith offers tips to the drummer for the Grandview Middle School Jazz Band Saturday, Jan. 19, during the annual Missouri Valley College Jazz Band Festival.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News) [Order this photo]
The standing ovation and thunderous applause was matched only by the appreciation shown the band directors.

MVC Instrumental Music Director Garry Anders had the directors of jazz ensembles from Martin City Middle School, Grandview Middle School, Grandview High School, Warrensburg High School, Sedalia Smith-Cotton High School and Winnetonka High School from North Kansas City take a bow near the end of the event.

"These folks are devoted to you," Anders told the student musicians. "We spend more time with you than with our own families sometimes."

Jazz great Bobby Watson demonstrates with a few notes on his sax Saturday, Jan. 19, during the annual Missouri Valley College Jazz Band Festival.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News) [Order this photo]
Anders also pointed out, by way of encouraging students to continue in their music studies, that as accomplished musically as their directors are, they started out like everybody else, at the beginning.

"Every one of them started just like you did -- not sure how to assemble the instrument or how to play it," he said. "Most of them, I heard play their first note and it was not good."

The directors also got support from the judges, both accomplished performers and music educators. Watson is William and Mary Grant/Missouri Professor of Jazz and director of jazz studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Smith is professor of music at Penn Valley Community College, director of Kansas City Youth Jazz and clinic director of Marshall's Bob James Jazz Festival.

Missouri Valley College Instrumental Music Director Garry Anders presents Shawn Gridden of Grandview High School with the Best Soloist of the 2013 MVC Jazz Festival Saturday, Jan. 19.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News) [Order this photo]
During the MVC festival, the two offered advice to each band, sometimes about how best to interpret the written music, sometimes about how to go beyond the notes on the page.

"Have you heard this guy say, 'Play to the end of the phrase?'" Smith said to the Grandview Middle School band, gesturing to their director, Charles Jakes. "You heard this guy say this a thousand times. You need to do it more."

Watson suggested musicians go beyond the written music at times, and trust their director to help them learn when and how to do so.

"The great thing about jazz is you use your imagination," Watson told members of Martin Middle School Jazz Ensemble. "If you hear something you want to play -- do it. Let the director tell you no."

Watson also urged all the bands he worked with during the day to play assertively.

"Exaggerate the dynamics. Exaggerate your articulation. Exaggerate your attack," he said. "Leave me with something to remember you by. Knock me off the stage."

Both judges emphasized the importance of execution in music. Playing the notes is just the beginning, they said. Style and phrasing are what create the special qualities of jazz, they said.

The bands at the festival represented a range of experience and skill, and they played a wide range of music, from jazz standards to more contemporary selections.

Smith and Watson both advised musicians to become familiar with the classics of jazz and to develop a feel for the history of the music.

"The music is always moving forward," Watson said. "This music used to be the popular music of the day. People used to dance to it. Keep that in mind as you play. Play it like you mean it."

Smith, helping Grandview High School Jazz Band II with its version of the Count Basie theme song, "April in Paris" recommended study of the Count Basie Orchestra's version.

"Go to YouTube. There's probably 1,000 versions of 'April in Paris,'" he said. "Find the one by the Basie Orchestra. You'll be blown away. Copy what they do."

Following the bands' performances but before the MVC Jazz Ensemble finale, Anders and co-directors Chuck Appleton and Charles Ferguson presented certificates of recognition to soloists and announced that Shawn Gridden of Grandview High School was named Best Soloist of the festival.

Contact Eric Crump at ecrump@marshallnews.com


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