The Student News Site of Boston Latin School

The Argo

The Student News Site of Boston Latin School

The Argo

The Student News Site of Boston Latin School

The Argo

Big Band’s Gold-Paved Road

On March 16, the Boston Latin School Big Band traveled to Norwood to compete in the final round of the Massachusetts Association for Jazz Education (MAJE) competition, playing classic jazz charts by legends like Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington. For the 14th consecutive year, they dominated the MAJE festival, earning a gold medal from the organization’s  State Finals this year.

The MAJE State Finals takes the best scholastic jazz bands around Massachusetts, culminating in a fierce competition for best in the state. Awards are given to groups based on their achievements and improvisation skills.

The road to gold is not an easy one, and preparation is key to success. Big Band meets twice a week, with full band and sectional rehearsals led by BLS music faculty Mr. Dennison Blackett, Mr. Sean Lee and Mr. Paul Pitts.

John Harvey (III), a first-year percussionist, provides insight into the ongoing work rooted in a strong structure of consistent rehearsals.  He explains, “Meeting twice a week as both a full band and in individual sections, alongside playing songs or parts of songs until they sound just right, contributes greatly to successful performances.”

Big Band begins their preparation for the MAJE competitions from the beginning of the year, balancing their weekly practices with their various live performances. Tenor saxophonist Catherine Jestin (III) joined Big Band this year and quickly learned that intensive work and effort were necessary to perform and compete as part of a team.

Jestin reflects on the journey to finals, describing it as “very nerve-racking. Any small mistake can affect [whether] we get gold or not. [It’s] nice to just play it out […] We work hard on every song and so it’s deserved.”

While performances are judged upon the group’s performance as a whole, individual musicians are also awarded for outstanding talent. This year, Justin Gao (II) was recognized with the Outstanding Musicianship Award for his excellence in trombone playing.

Feedback that allows musicians to grow in their skill and musicianship is a significant part of Big Band’s success, whether it be from internal individuals who help with performances, or adjudicators at jazz competitions and clinics. Members of Big Band embrace a commitment to continuous improvement and a desire to learn from and improve with each performance.

Soprano and alto saxophonist Cynthia Francis (III) expresses her appreciation for the commentary recordings from adjudicators, acknowledging that it helps her grow as a performer:  “I think the biggest thing is being open to criticism. The ability to appreciate the hard work you’ve put in and how awesome the band may sound is just as important as asking judges what we did that wasn’t great or requires improvement.”

Although Big Band is currently celebrating such a great achievement, their work is far from over. On May 5, Big Band will hit the big stage, performing alongside a lineup of Massachusetts gold-winning high school jazz bands at Boston’s Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade. The entire BLS community, friends and family are all encouraged to cheer on the group and celebrate another year of gold!

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