Jazz takes over the Palace CitySouth Dakota students to learn from some of best regional musicians at third annual Mitchell jazz band festival.
By: Jennifer Jungwirth, The Daily Republic
For the third year in a row, South Dakota jazz students will learn from some of the region’s best musicians in a day-long clinic in Mitchell. The Palace City Jazz Festival is from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Sherman Center on the Dakota Wesleyan University campus.
Students will perform and listen in on workshops conducted by six guest clinicians throughout the day. The day concludes with a 7:30 p.m. concert at the Sherman Center.
The Mitchell Middle School and High School jazz bands will perform, along with the South Dakota Jazz Orchestra. Advance tickets are $5 and are available at The Tumbleweed, Paulson’s Music and County Fair in Mitchell. Tickets will be $8 at the door. Children 10 and younger are free. Mitchell High School band director Ryan Stahle initiated the non-competitive jazz festival three years ago to fill a void he noticed in many festivals he and his students attended.
“One thing that was missing (at most jazz festivals) is the education process where you get more feedback,” Stahle said.
Six clinicians from regional universities will attend the festival and offer their advice to students. Twelve jazz bands from schools including Madison, Yankton, Sioux Falls, Brookings and West Central will attend the festival.
Students will spend 30 minutes with the six clinicians and each band will perform. Afterward, each band will have a one-on-one session with those clinicians, where they will hear feedback and receive recommendations for improvement.
“That’s 60 minutes of contact time with these clinicians,” Stahle said. “It’s more education and more laid back and more fun.”
Among the six clinicians, Stahle is looking forward to the expertise of Dr. Steven Wright, a nationally recognized trumpet and flugelhorn soloist, as well as composer and arranger. He’s also performed in the U.S. Air Force Jazz Ensemble and currently is an associate professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.
Wright said he and the other clinicians will listen to each band and make verbal and written comments that will aid the students and directors in future performances.
“They will also get to hear professional jazz musicians with many years of experience in concert,” Wright said. “This is one of the best ways for young players to improvise — to hear what it should sound like … how it is phrased in a style quite different than their band and an orchestra experience.”
Wright has been involved in jazz since his early days in junior high in the late 1950s.
“It allows for greater freedom of expression in performance — both in an ensemble and as an improvising musician,” Wright said of jazz. “Concert band and orchestra are much more structured. As a jazz musician, you can let a piece of music evolve over days, months and years. You aren’t as locked into a style of performance.”
The opportunity to evolve their playing ability and learn better improvisation are two of the main concepts Stahle said he hopes his musicians take away from the clinic.
“That’s a huge part of jazz music,” Stahle said. He added that most compositions are written for the entire band, with room in the middle of each performance for students to make up their own chord changes.
The clinic is early in the band’s season and Stahle planned it that way.
“This is a good way for them to get some ideas to take back to their schools and use for the competitive season,” Stahle said.
The MHS jazz band did well last year, he added. The group took first place at the Augustana competition last year, which is one of the larger contests in the state, Stahle said. It was the band’s fifth year winning the 3A division. The band also took second at the University of South Dakota contest.
Also at the festival, a program will be held by the South Dakota Jazz and Blues Society. The Jazz Diversity Project is a presentation on the history of jazz, done through multimedia and music.
The show incorporates the evolution of jazz beginning with American jazz musician Louis Armstrong, a prominent trumpeter and singer from New Orleans in the 1920s and 1930s. The 2 p.m. show is open to the public.