Jazz Band gets a full instrumentation


Debra Klevens

Focused on his music, senior Noah Wright plays his trumpet alongside the rest of trumpet section during his second hour class. Wright has been playing in the Jazz Band since his sophomore year, but this is his first year playing with a full instrumentation.“With there being more people, we’ve really been able to push ourselves,” Wright said. “We really have depth in the parts.”

For the first time since 2001, the Jazz Band has a full instrumentation. This means that the band has players for each instrument required for musical pieces written for large bands, including saxophones, trumpets, trombones, guitar, bass, drums and a piano.

“It’s really fun because we can do charts that were written for this instrumentation,” Jazz Band Director Brian Parrish said. “The sound is way bigger and more full than what you would do in a combo setting, where you basically have just six players. It’s really exciting because it’s a sound that the West High community hasn’t heard in a while.”

“Combos” is the word that the band uses to describe the small groups that the band was forced to play in during previous years when they didn’t have enough members for a full instrumentation. Although the band no longer needs to play in combo settings, the new members have faced some challenges.

“We started off with a lot of people on new instruments this year,” Band Director Brad Wallace said. “So we worked really basic and fundamental things. A lot of basic technique and listening to a lot of music, and we had students listen to music as assignments for the class. My hope is that when we get to the end year the band will have had a lot of musical growth.”

According to Wallace, learning the style of music is a big challenge for new Jazz Band members, as it is something often unfamiliar to the first year players.

“It’s just the different style of music I don’t think you get to see with [a] traditional band that really throws it off,” Wallace said. “We’ll learn a lot of music this year. I really push on different styles, making sure that we’re hitting every kind of style of jazz there is, from early big bands to latin and rock tunes to more modern jazz.”

Due to the recent growth of the class, veteran players in the group have had to step up to help many of the new members learn the ropes of the new style.

“In my section, I’ve been able to help out a lot of the younger guys,” senior Noah Wright said. “There are people who aren’t as familiar with jazz and some who have already taken jazz and are just doing awesome. I think I’ve really been able to help them in some ways.”

According to Wright, one of the most difficult parts of the jazz style to learn is the use of solos and improvisation. Some players are expected to make up their solos as they go, and this can be a particular challenge for both new and experienced members alike.

“It was like trial by fire,” Wright said. “They just told us to solo on one of our first days and it just sounded [poor]. But we just continued to work on it, and, like anything, it takes practice. And I still don’t have it, I don’t think I’ll ever have it, but the more you learn the more you want it to sound better.”

The next Jazz Band performance is Nov. 29, at the Sky Music Lounge.