Swing Central Jazz Announces High School Jazz Bands to Participate in SMF 2018

Twelve of the nation’s top high school jazz bands have been selected to compete in the twelfth annual SWING CENTRAL JAZZ (SCJ) High School Jazz Band Competition & Workshop, an event produced by the Savannah Music Festival (SMF). Acclaimed jazz pianist/composer/educator Marcus Roberts leads a group of over 20 esteemed musicians/educators as Associate Artistic Director of SMF, alongside SCJ Associate Director and trumpeter Jim Ketch, Director of Jazz Studies at the ‘UNC Chapel Hill. The twelve finalists include student groups from across the country, including acclaimed national institution ensembles Jazz at Lincoln Center (New York, NY) and SFJazz (San Francisco, CA).

Participating students work with jazz masters over three days, perform at the Jazz on the River showcase on Savannah’s River Street, participate in competitions, and attend a variety of SMF performances during their stay, which runs from 4-6 April 2018. “It was a fantastic and extremely competitive group of candidates. Our applications have increased by 40% this year, and I am confident that these young people and their teachers represent the best in American high school jazz today,” says Marcus Roberts, Associate Artistic Director. “Directing Swing Central Jazz is one of the most important things I do. Year after year, educators and students tell us that our innovative approach to big band jazz is creating better musicians and stronger jazz programs across the country. n 2018, the nationally recognized SWING CENTRAL JAZZ program features the following bands competing for $13,000 in cash prizes: Agoura High School Jazz “A” (Agoura Hills, CA) – Bob Hackett, director; Agoura High School Studio Jazz (Agoura Hills, CA) – Chad Bloom, dir.; Albemarle High School Jazz Ensemble (Charlottesville, VA) – Greg Thomas, conductor; Battle Ground High Advanced Jazz Band (Battle Ground, WA) – Greg McKelvey, dir.; Bloomington High School North Advanced Jazz Band (Bloomington, IN) – Janis Stockhouse, conductor; Byron Center High School Jazz Orchestra (Byron Center, MI) – Marc Townley, dir.; Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Big Band (New York, NY) – Matt Butterman, dir.; Newport High School Jazz I (Bellevue, WA) – Cory Edwards, principal; Niceville High School Jazz Band (Niceville, FL) – Dan Wooten, conductor; Northview High School (Grand Rapids, MI) – Greg Wells, principal.; Rio Americano AM Jazz Ensemble (Sacramento, CA) – Josh Murray, dir.; SFJazz High School All-Stars (San Francisco, CA) – Paul Contos, dir.

Alternates: Tarpon Springs High School Jazz Ensemble (Tarpon Springs, FL) – Chris de Léon, conductor; Las Vegas Academy of the Arts Jazz Band (Las Vegas, NV) – Patrick Bowen, dir..

The 2018 SWING CENTRAL JAZZ Clinician Team includes: Voice: Brianna Thomas; Trumpets: Jim Ketch, Tim Blackmon, Alphonso Horne, Terell Stafford; Reeds: Mercedes Beckman, Joe Goldberg, Tissa Khosla, Ricardo Pascal, Stephen Riley; Trombones: Wycliffe Gordon, Ron Westray, Corey Wilcox; Guitar: Dave Stryker; Drums: Leon Anderson, Bryan Carter, Jason Marsalis; Bass: Rodney Jordan, Raviv Markovitz, Rodney Whitaker; Piano: Marcus Roberts, Sullivan Fortner, Chris Pattishall, Bill Peterson.

On April 5, all bands perform in Jazz on the River at Rousakis Plaza on River Street. Competition rounds take place all day April 6 at the Lucas Theater for the Arts and are presented via webcast for family and friends who are unable to make it to Savannah. During the competition, each band plays a commissioned original arrangement of the classic Cole Porter song “Night and Day” by trumpeter Alphonso Horne, as well as two selections from standard big band repertoire by composers including Benny Carter, Billy Strayhorn, Thelonious Monk and Sammy. Nestico.

The three highest-scoring groups each receive an honorarium and compete for the coveted Jean Elizabeth Faircloth Prize ($5,000 for first, $2,500 for second, and $1,000 for third place). They also perform the opening set of the SMF production called Stomping the Blues, an original production at Lucas Theater for the Arts at 6:30 p.m. on April 6. All other competitors receive a $500 travel allowance.

SWING CENTRAL JAZZ is sponsored by Bob Faircloth, Georgia Public Broadcasting and Anne P. West.

Ada J. Kenney