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Students, professionals gather for Palace City Jazz Festival

Ryan Stahle, Mitchell High School jazz band director, leads a group of students during last year's Palace City Jazz Festival community performance. Students will partake in the festival again this year. A community show will be at 7 p.m. at the Sherman Center on the Dakota Wesleyan University Campus. (Republic File Photo)

Student musicians will get a chance to play with professionals Tuesday at the second annual Palace City Jazz Festival.

Some of the best musicians in the region will team up to educate middle and high school jazz bands from 11 schools at an all-day music event held on the Dakota Wesleyan University campus in Mitchell.

The Palace City Jazz Festival operates with the sole purpose of providing students an educational approach to jazz music. The event is a non-competitive environment for bands and band directors to improve jazz programs. Educational clinics will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., along with master classes and history presentations. At 7 p.m., a concert will be held at the Sherman Center at DWU.

Tickets to the concert are $5 in advance and $8 at the door. Advance tickets are available at the Tumbleweed, County Fair or Paulson's Music Center in Mitchell.

Mitchell High School band director Ryan Stahle said the bands will perform for 30 minutes in front of a six-member panel, comprised of professional musicians in the region. The six panelists will critique the group and then work with the band one-on-one for an additional half an hour.

"We wanted this to be more educational for the (students) and have them walk away from the experience learning how to make the group perform better," Stahle said.

Matt Wallace, a jazz saxophonist, is the lead clinician. He played with Maynard Ferguson's band for 11 years and will lead a master class on jazz improvisation, or creating melodies off the top of one's head.

"We want the kids to gain a little more confidence about improvisation," Wallace said. "There's the basic X's and O's, but we're going to instill confidence. That's what most improvisation comes from -- the sense of knowing what you are doing."

Alex Graves, a junior and trombonist in the Mitchell High School jazz band, is looking forward to playing with the professionals and gaining their input.

"Here it's usually limited," Graves said of listening and performing with professional musicians. "This will add to our playing. At competitions, you're just there to perform."

Ken Hoyne will bring more than 35 years of jazz band experience to the festival. Hoyne is a freelance jazz trombonist and plays with the South Dakota Jazz Orchestra, along with other music groups including Bone-ifide Jazz and DNR.

Along with improvisation, Hoyne hopes to teach students style, interpretation and phrasing.

"I want to give them a sense of what they can do with the music rather than just playing the notes," he said.

Jazz music leaves room for creativity. As America's "only true art form," said Stahle, "It's music about soul and feeling."

"I enjoy the spontaneous creativity in an improvised jazz solo," Hoyne said. "It's the opportunity to take what someone else has written and make it a statement."