Students get educated in the art of jazz

HUSD hosts annual jazz festival at Tahquitz High School

Photos by Jason Miller / The Valley Chronicle
Educators Craig Yancey (left) and Gary Pratt (right) between performances at the Jazz Festival/Clinic

■ By Jason Miller / Contributed

Students from seven schools across the Hemet Unified School District gathered for the annual Jazz Festival/Clinic at Tahquitz High School this past Saturday.
On Feb. 10, the event was hosted by Jeremy Pietsch who is the Department Chair/Band Director of Tahquitz High School and conductor of two THS jazz bands.
“This was Tahquitz’s first year hosting the festival”, according to Pietsch. The festival in prior years was hosted by Hemet High School. Following each band’s performance, Craig Yancey and Professor of Jazz Performance at Cal-State Northridge Gary Pratt were on hand to critique all the bands’ performances offering constructive criticism to make them better.
Yancey, a retired middle-school band teacher of 35 years and a professional saxophone player, told the Valley Chronicle that “it’s not a point-based performance but an educational performance,” and that “the positive aspect of what [the festival] brings to these young people and their families is something we are not getting these days.”

Cynthia Arias, trumpeter of Hemet High Jazz 2 group

Pratt, who is soon retiring after 36 years at CSUN, says that “these groups are not competing with each other, we are not comparing concepts to one another,” and that this event “is to be informative and to be of service to music education.” Both educators also shared their admiration for each other. In addition to the on-stage critique, Yancey and Pratt also recorded their thoughts and suggestions for each band to review back on their respective campus, which will assist the band directors and their students to improve for future performances.
One band that showed determination and teamwork was the Hemet High Jazz 2 group led by band director Dan Boulton. Boulton told the Chronicle that, “the band’s determination and teamwork shows in rehearsals when it comes to creativity.”
“The students share their ideas and social interactions verbally with each other.”
While on stage, the Hemet band paid close attention to the instruction of Yancey and Pratt. One of those students is trumpeter Cynthia Arias; she said after the experience she “felt really amazing,” and that she would love to do it again because they don’t get to perform that often. Arias says her favorite style of jazz is Latin Jazz but hopes to learn other types of music.
“This program is to help students broaden their horizons,” said Jeremy Pietsch.

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