Students who are looking for a fun environment to improve their musical skills can do so with Thomas Jefferson’s Jazz Band.
Jazz Band has been around for many years. The after-school club allows students to come together and hone their skills with their preferred instrument. Students can be seen jamming out and having fun together to make an array of notes come together. The club is sponsored by Robin Morrissey, Thomas Jefferson High School’s instrumental music teacher, who helps these talented individuals not only support one another, but also learn from each other during meetings. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m., students enter the band room ready to play together and have fun.
Morrissey helped elaborate on what the group focuses on during these sessions. She stated, “we’ve dug into what is considered old-time jazz. We’ve had to start from the beginning because we’re new to each other, so we started with a basic rock beat.” Morrissey leads these students through different arrangements including swing beat, funk, and Latin rhythms. The group’s structure is reminiscent of big bands from the 1930s and 40s. These bands included a rhythm section made up of guitar, bass, and a drum kit while also having five saxophones, trombones, and trumpets behind them. Although TJ’s Jazz Band may not have the standard number of wind players, the band is still able to capture the essence of the big band era.
Most recently, songs that the group has begun to dig into have been Take 5, Satin Doll, and In the Mood. The overall goal for these students is to be able to recite and memorize songs that are a part of jazz standards in order to participate in jam sessions and open mic nights at club events. Morrissey added, “you have to have the music memorized, but if you know the song, you can go sit up on stage and play. It’s a really fun thing to do, and they sometimes have nights for teens. They’ll have host rhythm sections or a host group that’s there to mentor and guide through the evening.” These events give students an opportunity to really come together and just have fun while playing music while drastically improving their skills as musicians. Currently, with the ongoing pandemic, it is unclear whether students this year will participate; nonetheless, it is a remarkable experience for students.
TJ’s Jazz Band is for anybody, and welcomes any instrument. A senior from TJ, Nil Padhiar, recalled his experience of trying out and participating in the band. He stated, “it was fun and very exciting. It was nice to work with a group of people who wanted to participate and put in the extra work. You can tell everyone wanted to be there.” Morrissey is also able to teach and lead in her own way without having to make students complete assignments. It is purely focused on playing and having a good time with no sense of pressure.
It is recommended that interested students have the ability to read sheet music and have prior experience in order to get the full experience of playing in the band. Both upper and lower classmen are welcome. There are also opportunities to work on improvisation with feedback. Jazz Band is an environment for students to understand their instrument and concepts of jazz while simultaneously learning to work as a unit of musicians. “We’d love to have people come in and sit in with us because it’s a lot of fun,” added Morrissey. The club is an incredible opportunity for students, and all they have to do is show up to see if it’s a right fit for them. TJ’s Jazz Band is full of talented students, and with a remarkable teacher, the environment they create is so authentic.