This year’s jazz band season turned out to be one of the more successful in recent memory for Creston Community High School Band Director Mike Peters.
The season culminated Monday with the CCHS jazz band taking first place at the Lewis and Clark Festival in Sioux City.
“We’ve always done really well,” Peters said. “Last year, we didn’t even place at Lewis and Clark. This is obviously better that way. I would say it was probably one of our strongest years we’ve had in the last couple. They worked really hard.”
Lewis and Clark Festival was the third and final contest performance for the jazz band this year, which began practicing in November. The jazz band, along with drum line and concert band, will perform 7 p.m. March 6 in the CCHS auditorium in a local performance.
Creston Community School District Superintendent Steve McDermott watched video online of the jazz band’s performance at Lewis and Clark Festival.
“The performance was outstanding,” he said. “And, although it’s not the same impact as actually being there, I’m just always inspired when I hear that group play. They put a whole lot of work into their instrumental music and you can tell. Several of those students, at this point, aren’t just playing the notes, their music is actually expressive and you can tell they’ve matured in their musicianship.”
In addition to the win at Lewis and Clark Festival, the CCHS jazz band also took third out of eight teams at the Simpson Jazz Festival and received a Division-I rating at the state contest held in Winterset.
“It’s been a great year. The kids have done well,” Peters said. “I’m really proud of them. They did something we’ve haven’t done in a long time and that was beat Glenwood’s jazz band (at Lewis and Clark). We beat MOC-Floyd Valley’s jazz band, too. We haven’t done that in a long time, either. I had a really good corps of seniors this year that have been really great leaders and have really stepped up.”
Seniors in this year’s jazz band were Jordan Phillips, Olivia Hartman, Ann Fehrle, Ben Irr, Patrick Normandeau, Tyler Peters, Paul Lorenz and Jake Hitz.
The Panther jazz band performed three songs this year. The band played a song called “Backburner” for its swing tune, a ballad called “’Round Midnight” and a familiar Latin tune in “Land of Make Believe.”
“These were not easy tunes,” Peters said. “One of the judges said, ‘You picked some hard stuff and your kids did really well.’ So, I was really proud of them.”
Jazz band competitions include playing the songs, but also asking band members to perform improvised solos.
Tyler Peters, Bailey Hopkins, Fehrle and Gabe Frakes all received outstanding soloists throughout the year.
Peters said performing solos allows the band members to explore a creative element to their playing.
Bands are judged on how well they play individually, how well the rhythm section plays, how well the brass section plays, how well the saxophone section plays and how well they play as a whole ensemble.
“There’s a category for style – how well they play the style they’re supposed to be playing,” Peters said. “You wouldn’t want your swing tune to sound like a polka and you wouldn’t want the Latin to sound like a rock tune. I tell the kids, it’s like you don’t try to speak German with a French accent. You have to speak the language of the style using the correct dialect.”
The most important part of being involved in jazz band, or any of Peters’ band programs, is learning how to work toward excellence, Peters said.
“I teach excellence, making kids realize you have to work hard and when you work hard, there’s success,” he said. “When you have success, there’s excellence. What’s important is these kids work hard so they get good at this, so they get excellence at this. That’s more important, more of a life lesson than anything. Hopefully I’ve taught them that hard work creates excellence.”