Momentum Continues to Build for Mitchell High School Jazz Bands – Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL – Mitchell High School’s jazz bands are racking up accolades, both locally and across the region.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these kids,” said Ryan Stahle, Mitchell High School Groups Director. “They’re as driven and talented as any band I’ve had over the years, and it shows in their performances.”

The most recent stop for the MHS Jazz 1 ensemble was the South Dakota Conductors’ Conference, held Feb. 11 in Brookings. After applying last spring, Mitchell was selected to perform with bands from Lincoln High School (Sioux Falls), Harrisburg, Northern State University and Augustana University.

For Mitchell, the performance had an additional element. Adam Meckler, the jazz trumpeter and composer, sat down with the band as they performed one of his pieces, “Busta Jones.” Meckler next performed alongside jazz combo TriTones, consisting of ten Jazz 1 members, on “Quartermaster”.

“People outside of the band world may not fully appreciate it, but that performance was a big deal,” Stahle said. “To take the stage at this conference and play alongside someone as accomplished as Adam is an incredible honor for our band. Having him here in South Dakota with us working with the kids before he plays and then sharing the stage is something we will remember for a long time.

Throughout the conference, Stahle said, he received feedback from fellow directors on the jazz band’s performance. The difficulty of his selections and the musicality they displayed were common themes among other music professionals.

This year, Mitchell presents two jazz groups totaling 37 students. Jazz 2 is composed mainly of younger students, while Jazz 1 includes more experienced musicians. Both groups perform regularly, and Jazz 1 and 2 will be featured at festivals across the state this spring.

Mitchell High School jazz bands recently performed at the South Dakota Bandmasters Conference and the Palace City Jazz Festival.

Photo submitted

The jazz bands kicked off their local spring lineup Feb. 8 with the Palace City Jazz Festival, an annual event hosted by Stahle along with other staff and parent volunteers. This year, 19 jazz bands with 500 students came to Mitchell to perform for clinicians, who led workshops and provided feedback.

“We started this festival 14 years ago to inspire and guide students and producers in their jazz programs and to do so in a non-competitive format,” Stahle said. “We’re so proud that it’s become so popular with jazz musicians across the state.”

Festival clinicians included well-known musicians from across the country. This year’s lineup included Adam Larson, Chris Smith, Marcus Lewis, Jim Spiers, Andrew Reinartz and Jeremy Hegg. Larson also ran a clinic on improvisation.

Following the band’s full trip to Orlando in mid-February, the jazz band will perform at the Augustana Jazz Festival on March 1. Later in the evening, the TriTones will perform with the newly formed Dakota University Wesleyan Jazz Band at 7:30 p.m. at the Sherman Center. They will also perform at festivals at the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University.

Mitchell High School jazz bands recently performed at the South Dakota Bandmasters Conference and the Palace City Jazz Festival.

Photo submitted

Both jazz bands will have local performances at the Spring Concert on March 15 and the Palace City Jam on May 3.

Ada J. Kenney