Jazz director Christopher De Leon conducts band senior Ivan Serafin, along with other performers on stage, ensuring everyone is in sync. This was Mr. De Leon’s first year on campus. “They’ve missed [performing live] for a long time. We all have missed it,” Mr. De Leon said. “It puts an exclamation point at the end of the year that we are finally seeing ourselves get back to normal.”
Jazz director Christopher De Leon conducts band senior Ivan Serafin, along with other performers on stage, ensuring everyone is in sync. This was Mr. De Leon’s first year on campus. “They’ve missed [performing live] for a long time. We all have missed it,” Mr. De Leon said. “It puts an exclamation point at the end of the year that we are finally seeing ourselves get back to normal.”
Lexi Critchett

“The Power of Music”

The jazz band ends the year with their first in-person Spring Jazz Concert

Concealed in the wings, extra drumsticks and music stands were scattered on the tiled floor as performers lined up to go on stage. Behind the black curtain, the familiar spotlights and auditorium seats were in view — but this time, they were performing for an audience.

On Saturday, May 15, the jazz band had their first in-person concert since last year. Although the department has hosted various virtual concerts, including the 13th Annual Charles Mingus Virtual Concert, students from Zero Hour Jazz Band and Jazz Ensemble 1 haven’t entered Meyer Hall with the intent to perform until now. 

“[Performing live] felt great because it’s been more than a year since I’ve been able to perform in [front of] a live audience,” band senior Adam Lord said. “Regaining that energy felt good, especially since some of the other people in the band and I, we’ve played together a lot and we knew some people in the audience that were adding energy to [the performance]. They were cheering and yelling and we reciprocated that energy. We missed that.”

Jazz director Christopher De Leon conducts band senior Ivan Serafin, along with other performers on stage, ensuring everyone is in sync. This was Mr. De Leon’s first year on campus. “They’ve missed [performing live] for a long time. We all have missed it,” Mr. De Leon said. “It puts an exclamation point at the end of the year that we are finally seeing ourselves get back to normal.” All photos by Lexi Critchett.

To abide by social distancing guidelines, not all of the auditorium rows and seats were available to spectators. The concert was broken up into two parts: Zero Hour Jazz Band then Jazz Ensemble 1. When the Zero Hour Jazz Band finished their pieces, the seated audience left Meyer Hall, leaving a 15 minute break in between the groups. Then, the audience of the Jazz Ensemble 1 and Dreyfoos Jazz Quintet performances entered and took their seats. 

“My favorite thing about the concert was sitting in the audience with my friends, watching [Zero Hour Jazz Band],” band senior Jackson Spellman said. “Watching live music [with my friends], and having that experience was cool. Seeing the potential in the band gave me hope for the jazz program for years to come.”

In November 2020, Christopher De Leon came to campus as the new jazz director. Shortly after his arrival, jazz students began rehearsing and practicing pieces, unsure if there would be a live concert by the end of the year. 

“We did a lot of listening,” piano sophomore Joshua Lumaban said. “We had to make sure that we knew the chart and what it sounded like before starting to play. We had the music in front of us so we [could] go through it. … Then, [Mr. De Leon] started critiquing the details.” 

Mr. De Leon conducts the jazz band throughout their pieces. At the start of the Zero Hour Jazz Band and Jazz Ensemble 1 performances, Mr. De Leon gave his students a shoutout for the band’s various achievements throughout this year.

Mr. De Leon’s arrival and teaching methods have influenced students and how they practice and perform. To help with preparation, Mr. De Leon gave students playing assignments to help establish accountability for their parts of the pieces. 

“This year was definitely a change of pace, but we all got used to it,” band junior Josiah Evans said. “He’s pushed our band much farther than we ever thought we could have gone. We’re all grateful for it.” 

Throughout the pieces, performers stood up from their podiums and sheet music stands to the front of the stage for a solo. The brass of band freshman Sydnie Dorleus’ trumpet glimmered under the spotlights, and as she concluded her part of ‘Meetin’ Time’ by Count Basie, applause bellowed from the audience.

“It felt nerve racking since it was my first time, but it was fun because people in the audience were clapping,” Dorleus said. “[Jazz Ensemble 1] was watching us and I heard them clapping for me. It was supportive when they would clap.” 

Band sophomore John-Mark Evans plays his solo part of ‘Back Bone’ by composer Thad Jones as part of the Zero Hour Jazz Band performance.

In between the Jazz Ensemble 1 and Zero Hour Jazz Band performances, band senior Aidan Taylor played ‘Mt. Lidges’ which he composed as part of the Dreyfoos Jazz Quintet. Taylor swayed to the sounds coming from his bass while glancing at his peers. 

“The small group was fun because I got to play with my group which is the student-run ensemble,” Taylor said. “It was with my best friends of four years, and some even longer than that; we’ve been playing together for such a long time. It was collaborative because we were all working together as students and as musicians.” 

Moving with the music, band senior Aidan Taylor performs his original composition ‘Mt. Lidges.’ “I thought it was amazing … when you’re feeding off the audience and the audience is feeding off of you,” Taylor said. “We had a great audience that night. Everyone was so pumped up about everything.”

At the end of the concert, the performers gathered outside Meyer Hall to unite with their friends and families, many receiving bouquets and other tokens of support.  

“My favorite part about the event was after we were done performing and I went outside and a bunch of the parents and my family were out there,” band sophomore Jordan Aboderin said. “When I came out, I got a standing ovation and everybody started clapping for me.” 

While this was the seniors’ last jazz concert, many performers found solace in knowing they were able to perform on stage for a final time. 

“I felt fortunate to have had a jazz concert at all this year because last year, the seniors didn’t have the same opportunity,” Spellman said. “I’m thankful for the way things have worked out so that we’ve been able to perform for an audience again and have a semi-normal end-of-year experience.”

As Mr. De Leon motioned his hands, the music dimmed and the audience rose to their feet, applauding. A sense of normalcy was regained this night amongst jazz students. 

“Honestly, it was emotional,” Aboderin said. “I thank God because to have that experience again, it was breathtaking. This year has been hard for everybody and the power of music has helped a lot of people get through the year. I know it’s helped me. I was happy because I’ve been preparing for this for a long time and I’ve been waiting to get back on the stage under the right conditions.”

Band junior Harrison Gesser plays the drums for Jazz Ensemble 1, the final band to perform at the concert.
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  • Band senior Adam Lord plays the tenor saxophone in the Dreyfoos Jazz Quintet, which featured the performers’ original combos. “No matter what tune it was or what band I was playing in, the energy [of] being able to play with my friends in a live setting again is something that I missed,” Lord said.

  • Playing the trombone, band senior Jackson Spellman performs a solo piece. “I was excited [for] the concert,” Spellman said. “The band has been preparing for the last few months, and getting to play in front of an audience was exciting.”

  • Using the ivory keys as his guide, piano sophomore Joshua Lumaban plays his part of the piece. This was Lumaban’s first year in the jazz ensemble. “My favorite parts [of the concert were] hearing the audience and listening to them,” Lumaban said. “I haven’t heard that in a while. I enjoyed being with my friends and playing with people that I know are good at doing what they do.”

  • Band sophomore Cole Pasch plays the trombone while reading his sheet music.

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Bridget Frawley
Bridget Frawley, Editor In Chief
Bridget Frawley is a third-year staffer and co-editor-in-chief on The Muse. When she is not writing stories of her own, Bridget is working with the staff to build connections and ensure all voices are represented through diverse coverage that stretches across platforms. Outside of the publication room, Bridget can be found reading classics, being with her cat, or browsing local bookstores.
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