All that jazz
Every day for around 90 minutes, students bring their chosen instruments — trumpets, saxophones, guitars and more — to practice jazz music in various groups at Harlan Community High School.
Those consistent 90 minutes lead many times to championships at various festivals throughout the year and the jazz bands have many competitions ahead of them this semester.
“All the festivals are competitive for placings and rankings to qualify for the Iowa Jazz Championships in April,” said band director Bill Kearney. “You have to place in the top 3 of three of the competitions to qualify or get first place at the District level in February.”
At their most recent jazz festival — the DCG Jazz Festival in Dallas Center — the Jazz Experience placed first and the jazz ensemble placed second.
The jazz students at Harlan will have an opportunity on Jan. 31 to learn from one of the best in the business during a clinic with Willie Murillo.
“He is a nationally known professional jazz trumpeter and has played and produced for various artists and movie productions,” Kearney said. “He lives in California and has done clinics for jazz festivals out this way. I asked him to come back and work with our program as a guest artist and he agreed to do that. He's very inspirational.”
Kearney said Murillo will host clinics, a masterclass and there will be a concert in the evening.
Of the upcoming competitions, Kearney said the Simpson Jazz Festival Jan. 27 is going to be a significant one, as well as one in Waukee in March.
“We should have some big name schools to compete with,” he said. “Then we can get a gauge on where we are at with what we have ready.”
Kearney said the school has a good group this year, with mostly juniors and some “outstanding seniors.”
“It's a good group of kids all the way around as musicians and human beings,” he said. “For the school, they represent the school and community very well.”
Kearney said he’s excited to see and witness and be a part of their run toward excellence and competition this year.
“I think they are really looking forward to this higher end of the jazz season and the experience of the competition,” he said. “It's going to be a good group to look forward to if you come listen and watch them.”
Upcoming Jazz Events
Jan. 27 Simpson Jazz Festival, Indianola
Jan. 28 Jazz Combo Competition, University of Iowa, Iowa City
Jan. 31 Clinic and Concert featuring Willie Murillo Harlan Community Schools
Feb. 17 Liberty Jazz Festival, Iowa City
Feb. 20 Dick Bauman Jazz Festival, Glenwood
March 4 Bluffs Jazz Festival, Council Bluffs
March 4 Waukee Invitational Jazz Fest, Waukee
April 3 Jazz Send Off Concert, Harlan Community Schools Auditorium
April 4 Iowa Jazz Championships, Ames
April 23 Jazz Dance, Harlan Veterans Auditorium