UAF Jazz Fest brings young dreamers to campus

Alyssa Dunehew / Sun Star Reporter
April 19, 2011

Smooth trumpets, jazzy sax tones, and thumping bass notes filled the Davis Concert Hall on Saturday afternoon, April 16, for the 2011 Jazz Festival’s (also called Jazz Fest) final concert. The High School Honor Band was the last to play, directed by Professor James Bicigo, preceded by the Showcase Choir, directed by Kate Hammett-Vaughan, and the Middle School Honor Band, directed by Karen Gustafson. The students from these ensembles come from all around Alaska and are picked to participate based on their performances in their music classes at their own schools.

To a member of the audience it might appear that members of the High School Honor Band had been rehearsing for weeks. Harvey Ruth, an 11th grade trombone player from West Valley High School was eager to inform that they barely practiced.

“There was a mini rehearsal this morning, but we had only looked at one of the tunes- the rest were new,” Ruth said. “We looked at ‘Mood Indigo’ yesterday, but the rest we didn’t look at until 9 a.m. this morning.”

This didn’t seem to faze Ruth, who’s been playing the trombone since 6th grade, but has only been in jazz band since last year. “I enjoy a lot of more modern styles of music, like rock, and I realized it all stemmed from jazz,” Ruth said as his reason to join jazz band. He is taking classes at UAF, is graduating early from high school and plans to major in music.

Of course, being in an honor band isn’t just for music majors like Ruth. Nick Brenner, a senior from North Pole High School, plans to be a mechanical engineering major. For him, music is a love but mostly a hobby. “It takes a lot of connections to make it in music, a lot of work, and putting yourself out there,” Brenner said. “I feel like I click better with engineering.” He is fascinated with the thought of conquering space, and wants to help design and build new spacecraft. Brenner, who plays the saxophone, received the 2011 Food Factory Fine Arts Scholarship, and is attending UAF in the fall.

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