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Big Time Jazz

Jeff Clemetson, Sierra Sun

Eight Tahoe-Truckee High School jazz band students will get an opportunity to perform with jazz great Wynton Marsalis this Thanksgiving, thanks to a program sponsored by the Nevada County Arts Council.

“Essentially Ellington” is a program sponsored by the Nevada County Arts Council and Jazz at Lincoln Center that combines the best jazz music students from Nevada County high schools together for an all-star band, culminating in an all-star concert.

“It’s easier to lead a section of good players than it is to lead a section of some good players and some not-so-good ones,” said TTHS trumpet player Brandon Dolph.

Chase Hartzell plays the saxophone. He said the program will help his skills progress but that the best part of it is “playing with good people.”

TTHS student Aaron Chase, who also plays the saxophone, said that he is “extremely honored” to be in a program that is “truly cool,” citing the involvement of “a legend like Wynton Marsalis.”

But the intense program isn’t just fun. For 10 weeks, the 22 high school students from across Nevada County get together every Thursday evening at Nevada Union High School for three hours of intensive study.

Besides practicing the big band music of Duke Ellington as a group, the students will also be divided by instrument and study with mentors – a teacher from each of the high schools participating in the program. TTHS music instructor Dave Green will mentor the reed section, which includes saxophone and clarinet players.

Practice at home will also increase. Other mentors tutor trumpet, trombone, piano, percussion and bass players.

“There is a level of dedication required,” Chase said, adding that he will have to practice his saxophone for three to five hours a week at home in addition to daily practice with the TTHS jazz band and the three-hour rehearsals for Essentially Ellington.

Dolph increased his practice regimen by an hour a week, he said, to keep his “chops in check.”

Also featured from the TTHS jazz program are Kyle Shane on trombone, Rich Hess on trumpet, Chris Brouwers on trumpet, Alex Dita on saxophone and Egan Dolph on saxophone.

After the 10 weeks of working with the cream of Nevada County high school jazz programs, the students will workshop with the cream of jazz nationwide.

On Nov. 23 and 24, Marsalis, as well as members of his band Odeon, will teach advanced workshops with the students of the combined high school band and Marsalis’ group at the Grass Valley Veteran’s Memorial Building for 10 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. On Saturday, the students will perform a concert with Odeon at 4 p.m. Tickets for the student concert are $12, and free for children under 12.

Also, Marsalis and Odeon will perform an evening concert at 8 p.m. Tickets are $70 for front rows, $55 for middle aisles, $50 for side aisles and $25 for bleachers.

The student performances will be recorded and the CD will be sent on to Jazz at Lincoln Center. They will be judged among all the other student groups that participate in the other Essentially Ellington programs throughout the country. The top 15 will be given the opportunity to perform at Lincoln Center.

For more information, call the Nevada County Arts Council at (530) 256-3917.


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