Dist. 9 Jazz Festival students get beat

Montrose Area teacher and PMEA District 9 President Nino Bennici served as the guest conductor of the junior high Jazz Fest ‘A’ Band.

Montrose Area teacher and PMEA District 9 President Nino Bennici served as the guest conductor of the junior high Jazz Fest ‘A’ Band.

BY ROBERT L. BAKER

The Tunkhannock Area Middle School played host to the District 9 Jazz Festival last Thursday and Friday with top musicians from across 15 school districts finding the beat.
The capstone of the night was the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association’s District 9 Jazz Band with guest conductor David Jumper of Marywood University.
“What a great band to have an opportunity to play with,” Jumper said, before joining his high school proteges in a Hoagy Carmichael arrangement, ‘Stardust.’
Initially calling them “kids,” Jumper instantly corrected himself and said “young adults who play beyond their years” and whom he’d be happy to perform with any day.
He turned to the audience and targeted parents and friends for contiunuing to support the students’ hard work, dedication and incredible talent.
Jumper and three other guest conductors, had the youths for auditions and clinics Thursday with the focus Friday on getting ready for the arrangements that became that night’s Jazz Festival.
The evening opened with Tunkhannock Area’s latest addition to the music faculty, Wayne Bishop, conducting the Jazz Fest ‘B’ Band, working through such jazz favorites as ‘Latin Quarter,’ ‘Milestone,’ ‘Watermelon Man,’ ‘Blue Train,’ and ‘Satin Doll.’
Next up was the District 9 Jazz Choir conducted by Amelia Garbisch, who is currently pursuing doctoral studoes at Temple University and is a much sought after conductor and clinician who continues to perform throughout North America and Europe.
She had the voices beautifully arranged through a set that included ‘Ray’s Rockhouse’ – with alto Molly Mattes of Lackawanna Trail serving as solist, ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ‘Swingle Song,’ and then the males exited the stage while the young ladies did ‘Always.’
The gals then exited and the guys returned for a performance of ‘What’ll I Do?’ that featured a duet from Tunkhannock Area’s Gerard Mirabelli and Colin Franko backed up by a great chorus.
After one more number when the genders reunited, Tunkhannock music teacher Tara Kasperowski came on stage with a plaque of appreciation for Garbisch.
She said the credit should go to her young charges, and noted that two in the group – soprano Leah Beth Evans of Valley View and tenor Malcolm Layaou of Tunkhannock Area – would be advancing to the PMEA State Jazz Festival held in Erie in April. The entire jazz choir then punctuated the evening by giving it their all with a rowsing ‘Route 66.’
Next up was the Jazz Fest ‘A’ Band with Montrose Area teacher and PMEA District 9 President Nino Bennici serving as guest conductor. He had the junior high charges wound up with Tunkhannock Area’s Paul Demarco doing a solo on the alto sax, and schoolmate Rachel Phinney setting her sax aside and belting out a jazz tune.
Bennici’s arrangements included ‘All of Me,’ ‘Groovin’ Hard,’ ‘Hog-Squealin, Rip-Snortin, Belly Achin Blues,’ Maximum Impact,’ and ‘Straight Up.’
Then it was the select high students under the direction of Jumper who got the crowd really feeling good about the direction of music training in northeast Pennsylvania.
Following ‘Stardust,’ Jumper talked about the importance of improvisation for jazz musicians and how well this group “got it.”
That was clear as the the band admirably performed ‘Blues-1, Band O,’ ‘Cole Minor Blues,’ Jackson County Jubilee,’ ‘Oswego Swagger, ‘Vin Street Rumble’ and ‘The Wiggle Walk.’
Before the final number, Tunkhannock music teacher Ken Luckey came to the stage to give a plaque to Jumper in grateful appreciation for connecting with the students.
Jumper then turned and thanked Tunkhannock’s music faculty, including Kevin Kreinberg, for the enormous amount of work it takes for a school to host a Jazz Festival.
The sentiment was echoed by the other conductors and following a final bee-bop that had a lengthy piano number by Wyoming Seminary’s Scott Edmunds and a seemingly longer drum set by Pittston Area’s Gary Thomas, the crowd rose to its feet for a lengthy standing ovation in appreciation for the music energy that permeated the place.
Schools sending students included Blue Ridge, Hazleton Area, Lackawanna Trail, Lake-Lehman, Lakeland, Montrose Area, Pittston Area, Tunkhannock Area, Valley View, Wallenpaupack Area, West Scranton, Western Wayne, Wyoming Area, Wyoming Seminary and Wyoming Valley West.
Local students from the Dist. 9 High School Jazz Band included, from Tunkhannock, Cameron King and Peter Horger on the trumpet; Lackawanna Trail’s Kyle Holmes on the trombone, and Montrose Area’s Tony Bennici on the trumpet.
Local students from the Dist. 9 High School Jazz Choir included, from Tunkhannock, Briana Knowles, Stephanie Kridlo, Alicia Lomascolo, Theresa Longsreet, Mayling Ijomah, Katie Kuzma, Derek Kline, Malcolm Layaou, Paulie Moore, Colin Franko, Gerard Mirabelli, Alex Phillips, John Vito Powell, and accompaniment on the bass from Buddy Connell; and, from Lackawanna Trail, Molly Mattes.
Local students from the Dist. 9 JazzFest ‘A’ Band included, from Tunkhannock, Paul DeMarco, Kenneth Filer, Rachel Phinney, Preston West, Ethan Hoefert, Josh Flaherty, John Shebby, Jason Linden and Patrick Cronin; from Blue Ridge, Nolan Hausser, Nick Swaha; and, from Montrose, Sean Quinn, Chris Ricci, Krista Quinn, Marci Rose and Jon Best.
Local students from the Dist. 9 JazzFest ‘B’ Band included, from Tunkhannock, Jake Psilka, Miranda Donovan, AC Macko, Matthew Goodwin, Keegan Cook, Michael Casey, Jordan Smith and Mitchell Reeves; from Blue Ridge, Jordan Mann, Stephen Forsyth, David Ferg, Cole Auckland, and, from Montrose, Austin Doloway.