Jazz band gives students a chance to hone jazz skills

The harmonious sound of jazz instruments reverberates throughout the halls in Broyles. The source of the music? The jazz band.

The jazz band has played at Westminster since 1976. The current jazz band instructor is the band director and brass specialist, Freddy Martin. Martin has been the jazz instructor for the past three years. The jazz band often performs in Thursday assemblies, as well as additional band concerts throughout the year.

“The jazz program does about four performances per year,” said Martin. “The full jazz band plays on the Christmas concert, the jazz concert, and on occasions of need like the Thursday assemblies.”

The jazz band doesn’t just play on campus. The combo class, which is a part of the jazz program, performs several times a year around campus and at other off- campus events.

“I have never performed outside of school, but we have had a few concerts each year,” said senior trombone player Catherine Christopher. “Usually the jazz musicians will play a song or two at the regular band concerts.”

The current jazz band is composed of mostly upperclassmen, with a few underclassmen helping out. Instruments in the band c range from the bass guitar to the drums and piano as well as the more traditional saxophone and trombone.

With the relatively large number of musicians in the jazz band, the band group needs practice to stay in touch with their musical skills.

“We rehearse occasionally during fourth period,” said Martin. “The jazz combo also meets before school in the mornings to practice.”

The band starts recruiting their future musicians as early as 5th grade.

“In fifth grade pretty much everybody signed up,” said Christopher. “I signed up [to play] with my friends.”

The jazz band is open to all musicians, not just those who started playing instruments in elementary school.

“I started taking band in at my elementary school before Westminster,” said Cyrus Faruque. “It’s a shame that they’ve cut band programs at almost all public elementary schools.”

The jazz teachers recruit students in the middle school for the jazz band, which practices outside of the high school band class.

“In middle school, Scotty Jones started jazz band. Only certain instruments could play in the jazz band,” said Christopher. “I play the trombone, and that is one of the jazz instruments, so he talked to me to try to recruit me. I was a little hesitant and first, because it was early Wednesday mornings.”

Jones served as leader of the band for 10 years before Martin took over. After a positive middle school experience, students began looking to continue their jazz playing.

“Max Motley and I took it upon ourselves to create the Westminster jazz combo,” said Faruque. “This extends jazz education outside of the band program to students who are truly interested in creating great music.”

The band department needs a high level of loyalty to keep their musicians playing from elementary school, all the way into the Upper School. This loyalty can come from a combination of passion for jazz, as well as encouraging teachers.

“I stuck with [the jazz band] because the directors care so much about all of the musicians,” said Christopher. “Learning to play music has been such a great experience because of them.”

Christopher enjoys all parts of the jazz band, but she specifically loves the solos performed by her classmates.

“We don’t have a lot of time to practice, but it always comes together really well,” said Christopher. “It’s great to see how well people can put amazing things together in such a short period of time.”

Faruque has formed long lasting friendships with his fellow jazz musicians throughout their tenures.

“The best part of jazz combo performances is the musical spontaneity we can all participate in due to our musical communication and musical trust in one another,” said Faruque. “It’s really cool when I can look over at [the other musicians] and we can take a song in a whole new direction or style. We improve with every performance.”