Jazz Band Returns to CHS


In the morning before school, students may hear the sounds of jazz floating through the hallways. Recently started up again and offers an opportunity for students to have a little fun before heading to class.

Jazz band meets Tuesdays and Wednesday from 7:10-7:50 in the morning, led by band director Alison Roberts, where the jazz band explores music and techniques not commonly covered in band class.

Jazz band this year is a lot about learning how to improvise and learning about the history and style of jazz, which is pretty different from what we normally do in band,” Roberts said.

Jazz band is for any member of the high school band who is interested and pianists and bass players from the orchestra. Students who don’t have any prior knowledge of jazz are encouraged to join.

“We’re learning the skills that are necessary to improvise, so you don’t have to come with them already,” Roberts said.

Musicians in the jazz band can also expand into a few other genres.

“Right now, we’re working on the twelve bar blues form, which is the first step when you’re learning how to improvise,” Roberts said. “In a normal year, you could also play covers of pop music too. That works really well in a jazz band.”

However, COVID-19 precautions have changed parts of jazz band’s meetings. Normally, the jazz band would have concerts and events, but this year, the jazz band hasn’t been able to have any events yet. Roberts said they’re “really hopeful that they’ll find opportunities for the jazz band to perform.”

COVID-19 has also presented other challenges to the jazz band, such as dividing the band based on when students are in school, making it smaller. 

“The biggest challenge is that we can’t meet as a full group everyday, so we can’t perform the same kind of music that we might normally,” Roberts said. “However, in some ways there’s a little bit of a silver lining, because that means that we get to instead of just rehearsing music all the time also learn a lot about improvising and about the history of what makes jazz what it is, which we wouldn’t necessarily have time for in a normal year.”

Jazz band, in addition to being a fun setting for playing music, also helps musicians by exposing them to a new style of music.

“It’s really important to learn multiple styles of playing,” Roberts said. “I think it makes you a more well-rounded musician and also more likely to play later in life.” 

As part of jazz, jazz band teaches students how to improvise, something not taught in a normal concert band, which means that musicians come up with music and expand on a melody on the spot. It may seem daunting, but once students learn how to improvise, it becomes a natural and important part of being a musician.

“People get really freaked out by improvising, but one way to think about it is you can compare learning music to learning a language,” Roberts said. “If you think about a little kid learning a language, the first thing they do is they make babbling sounds, then they learn later like how to actually say the words. Then they make their own sentences and learn how to read and write, and so you can think of music in the same way. Improvising is really just talking and coming up with spontaneous things to say, but it just takes a bit of practice and you have to learn how to babble before you can know how to make full sentences that make sense.”

In addition to helping musicians become better, jazz band is a great way for musicians to start their day and have a little fun.

I actually find that I’m more energized throughout the day, because I start my day off on such a good note, and I’m really excited to teach this curriculum,” Roberts said. “It’s really fun.”

The passion of a teacher can also go a long way to helping students enjoy themselves.

“There’s only been three jazz band practices so far, but it’s been fun,” jazz band member Seren Angus (‘24) said. “I like that we get to learn about so many things and have fun with it.”

Any students interested in joining the jazz band should contact Roberts, who said it’s not too late. It’s a great way for musicians to start their day off with something new and different from a traditional class, and learn some new musical skills that will help them.

“Jazz band is great, because it gives me an opportunity to get to know students better, and it’s also something exciting and new that I’m passionate about that I like sharing with the other students,” Roberts said.