Mitchell High School jazz bands begins travel season with strong showings at two regional competitions

Next competition set for March 28 in Norfolk, Nebraska

The Mitchell High School Jazz 1 ensemble took first place at the Upper Great Plains Festival at Augustana University in Sioux Falls recently.
Submitted Photo

The Mitchell High School Jazz 1 ensemble performed at the University of Nebraska-Omaha Jazz Festival Feb. 24 in Omaha, Nebraska, taking home a Division 2 rating.

They followed that up with a first-place finish in Class AA at the Jazz on the Upper Great Plains Festival at Augustana University in Sioux Falls on Feb. 28. The Jazz 2 Band took sixth place at Augustana, the highest finish among all Jazz 2 ensembles.

“These kids all work so hard,” said Ryan Stahle, director of the bands. “They show up at 7 a.m. multiple times every week to rehearse. You can hear the results of that work every time they perform.”

In addition to the full band awards in Omaha, several individual musicians were recognized for their solo work. Max Hart, Reed Renken and Drex Martinek took home outstanding solo awards. Martinek also won a festival-wide Outstanding Solo Award, one of two given among the more than 800 students in 42 bands from Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota.

At Augustana, Martinek and Mason Buenzow won outstanding soloist awards. Kobi Lutjens, a trumpet player in Jazz 1, received an outstanding soloist award for his work on baritone saxophone in Jazz 2.


Mitchell High School's Kobi Lutjens, Drex Martinek and Mason Beunzow caught up with Frank Greene, lead trumpet player for the Count Basie Orchestra, in Omaha, Nebraska recently.
Submitted Photo

In addition to their performance in Omaha, students attended concerts featuring well-known jazz musicians from across the country, including Willie Murillo, Frank Greene, Mary Fettig and Marcus Lewis. Lewis, an assistant professor of jazz studies at University of Missouri-Kansas City, has been a clinician at the Palace City Jazz Festival in Mitchell.

“These events feature some top-notch musicians who do tremendous work in teaching jazz to kids,” Stahle said. “And for these kids to have a chance to watch them perform is such a cool experience for all of us.”

Next up for the jazz bands is the Northeast Jazz Festival in Norfolk, Nebraska on March 28.

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