Chantilly High School hosted the Chantilly Invitational Jazz Festival last weekend. For two days, more than 500 high school and middle school jazz band students played, listened and learned from the talent and efforts of their peers.
The Festival, now in its 23rd year, has grown into a unique opportunity for jazz students and fans. The free event featured more than 30 groups, including eight small combos on Friday and 22 "big bands" on Saturday, playing a wide range of music.
The standards of Ellington were mixed with the newer "classics" of Bob Mincer and Alan Baylock. Scores with complex arrangements complemented improvised interludes. And wild applause from the audience rewarded the young musicians for their improvised solos.
"The Festival has lots of layers — education, new experiences, camaraderie and showcasing young talent," says Keith Taylor, festival director and director of bands for Chantilly High. "If anyone wants to know the names of tomorrow's professional musicians, they don't have to look any farther than the kids we heard this weekend."
Bands attending the event came from as far away as Hampton, Va., and as nearby as Oakton and Herndon High schools. The grand prize winner, which gets "bragging rights" for the coming year, was Walt Whitman High School. It was the second year in a row Whitman swept both the Small Combo and Big Band categories. Second place in big bands was Sherando High School from Stephens City, Va., with third place honors going to McLean High School. Aylor Middle School, Stephens City, Virginia, earned first place for Middle School Bands.
The Chantilly Jazz, directed by band director Keith Taylor, performed in exhibition on Saturday night. Senior trumpet player Dan Hill was featured along with senior Matt Takane in Arturo Sandoval's "Rhythm of the World." Hill was later recognized by the Big Band Society — Ed Walker Chapter with a $500 scholarship to use to continue his music studies in college. The Jazz finished its program with a couple of Duke Ellington pieces and a spirited rendition of "One for Woody."
Friday night included a "jam session" with Charlie Young, formerly of the Duke Ellington band, who also served as one of the judges. Young teaches saxophone at the college level and is currently a member of the Smithsonian's Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. He spent an hour playing his saxophone and answering questions from the students — encouraging them to practice hard and to keep their focus on their goals, whether it is a musical goal or not. "Find your passion, and you'll be successful," he said.
Saturday's Festival day included clinics taught by Alan Baylock, chief arranger for the USAF "Airmen of Note" and Dr. Bud Caputo, former music supervisor for Montgomery County Public Schools. During the clinics, students played sections of their pieces and received coaching advice.
Judges for the Festival were Pete Aiello, leader and music director of the U.S. Air Force "Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble"; Kerry Moffit, trumpet player with broad professional experience and Charlie Young.
Festival-goers also heard the Federal Focus Jazz Band, which played traditional New Orleans-style jazz on Friday night, and the USAF "Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble" on Saturday night.
The Festival was presented by the Chantilly High School Music Boosters and the Big Band Society — Ed Walker Chapter. Rhythm section members honored by Contemporary Music Center were Matt Anderson from Sherando and Matt Maloney of Fairfax.
Dan Hill of Chantilly, Matt Anderson of Sherando and Ben Jessup of Washington and Lee each received $500 scholarships from the Big Band Society — Ed Walker Chapter.
Students selected for the "All-Festival Jazz Band" included:
Saxophones: Will Reardon-Anderson (Walt Whitman), Jeremiah Baker (Sherando), Pete Reardon-Anderson (Walt Whitman), Ian Simmons (Sherando) and Simon Buzzard (McLean). Trombones: Matt Musselman (Walt Whitman), Charlie Smith (River Hill), Ander Schlenter (Oakton) and Rachel Rasmussen (Walt Whitman). Trumpets: Scott Firestone (Fairfax), Doug Halter (Herndon), Nick Sednew (McLean) and Noah Mlotek (Walt Whitman). Bass: Audry Hamilton (Walt Whitman). Piano: David Newcomb (Oakton). Drums: Alan Eckert (Sherando) and Guitar: Katt Mann (River Hill).
This year's Festival was emceed by radio newsman Don Hanzlik, who is heard locally on WBIG and other stations. The Chantilly Band Boosters is headed by Jeff Holman and includes parents and friends of students in the band program.