Thomas Jefferson

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Let Me See Your Jazz Bands

Posted 10/09/2018 by Erin Maloof

Jazz Band members work to refine their solo and ensemble skills at rehearsal. (l to r: Aidan Schlue, Chris Anver, Kaleb Mayeux, Baxter Stein). photo by Erin Maloof

Anyone looking for something fun, funky, and fresh should look no further than Thomas Jefferson High School’s Jazz Band.

Jazz Band is an after school club sponsored by TJ’s instrumental music teacher, Robin Johnson. Jazz Band is a place for people to come together, have fun playing music, and jam out. Among this year’s regularly attending musicians are seniors Chris Anver, Kaleb Mayeux, Aidan Schlue, Baxter Stein, sophomore Camryn Smith, freshmen Brenna May and Cedar Miera, and others who meet every Monday and Thursday from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. in room 148.

Jazz Band is an interesting blend of whole band and individual learning opportunities for students at TJ. Each member of the club plays their own unique instrument like saxophone, bass, violin, or drums. While members often practice their songs as a whole ensemble, the club focuses on each musician’s individual playing skills as well. Johnson aims to cultivate every student’s talent while also helping them learn to play as a unified group. Johnson explained, “Fortunately, [Jazz Band] is not a curricular class, so I can teach it any way I want.” With no exact curriculum to follow, Johnson has the freedom to pace the extracurricular club as fast or as slow as the members need. Additionally, she is able to use, unique teaching methods that are not typically used in a normal class setting to help deepen each member’s musical understanding.

During club meetings, the members play through multiple songs and take turns performing solos while the rest of the musicians provide background music. This style allows all the musicians to practice their individual skills and flex their creative muscles by making up a solo on the spot. After offering advice and compliments to the students, Johnson challenges them go off on their own, listen to a solo they like, and try to copy as much of it as they can in 20 minutes. With a Masters degree in Music Education from the University of Colorado, Johnson is highly qualified to suggest such methods. “The thing I’ve learned from all the jazz professors I’ve had is that one of the best ways to learn is to just pull from the professionals and try to copy their pieces,” reflected Johnson.

During the 2019 spring break, students in jazz band will have the opportunity to travel up and down the Mississippi River, playing at various venues like museums and clubs alongside members of Advanced Orchestra and Band. This will give students the chance to play in front of a variety of audiences and practice their live performance skills.

Jazz Band welcomes new members as a place for those who are open to learning a new style and taking a more community-inclusive approach to music. “Jazz Band is a great blend of upper and lower classmen who want to play this specific genre of music and are passionate about it,” concluded Anver. Anyone in any grade can join, so get out there and get jazzy, TJ!