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Get Ready for Jazz and Pizzazz

21st annual band and choral extravaganza at Chantilly High.

If it's May, it's time for spring flowers, school proms and Chantilly High's band and choral extravaganza, Jazz and Pizzazz. And this 21st annual, high-energy, roof-raising show bursts upon the stage Wednesday-Saturday, May 23-26, at 7 p.m. each night.

IT FEATURES the school's Touch of Class Show Choir and Chantilly Jazz band and, says Band Director Keith Taylor, "It's one of the best displays of teen-age talent you'll ever catch around."

Reserved seats for this popular show are $10. Tickets may be purchased at school, and order forms for will-call tickets are available in the front office. Tickets will also be sold at the door, if there are any left. Call Joyce Resua at 703-478-6382.

It's an event eagerly anticipated by the community each year, and, after two decades, Choral Director Glenn Cockrell believes it's "the longest-running show we've ever had at Chantilly."

This year's theme is "Makin' the Big Time," and Cockrell says it generally follows "every Broadway story of a small-town boy and girl who try for show-business success, have some failures, try harder and eventually make it."

And it's illustrated by some of the songs, such as "Nine to Five" and "Working for a Living," symbolizing working artists, waiting on tables and working in offices by day and auditioning for shows at night.

"WE'RE DOING our full-out production with lights, costumes and set," said Cockrell. "There'll be solo and group numbers, and we'll cover a broad spectrum of musical styles, tastes and genres."

Some 22 students comprise the Chantilly Jazz, and Taylor says they, too, will perform a wide variety of music, "from rock to funk to Latin to big-band swing — it covers the gamut." There'll be tunes from Duke Ellington, Gordon Goodwin (big band) and Natalie Cole. And, said Taylor, "We have fantastic soloists on trumpet, sax, clarinet, piano, drums, trombone, bass and guitar."

A sampling of the Chantilly Jazz' songs includes "Paper Moon," big-band swing with a featured vocalist; "La Pequeña Almeja" (the little clam), a Latin number; "The Flaming Sword," swing and Latin; "Black and Tan Fantasy," slow blues; "Spain," Latin; "Jumpin' Punkins," medium swing, and "Get in Line," fast funk.

"These are all professional-level charts, and my students are knockin' 'em out," said Taylor. "We've been rehearsing all year and, in the last month, we started adding more tunes."

He said the hardest thing is that it's such a long show — two hours — and "professionals don't even play this long." But he said his young musicians are definitely up to the task.

"WHAT'S COOL about it is the energy and synergy between the two groups [choral and band students]," said Taylor. "They feed off each other's talents and get excited for each other."

He said the show summarizes the jazz band's year and really pulls it together. "It's demanding and really challenging — and the kids like it," he said. "It's also fast-paced; as one tune ends, the next one's starting."

Taylor described this original show as similar to an iPod mix — "You pick out your favorite tunes and put them together. It's a combination of a lot of what the Show Choir and jazz band have done in competition, plus feature acts added in."

He said the numbers are chosen "to help show off where our talents are each year. And almost everyone who wants a solo has one and gets to have the spotlight on them."

Taylor's been Chantilly's band director since 1988 and has headed this show since the early 1990s. And, he said, "The thing I find the most interesting is that, no matter the year, the kids step up and carry on the great tradition of playing difficult, challenging and new material very well."

"And they make it sound easy," added Drew Ross, assistant band director, who'll play trumpet with the Chantilly Jazz during the show. "There's nothing out there like it."

Taylor also noted that the parents of the band and choral students "get very involved with the show to make it all work. They're very committed, dedicated and supportive. And the alumni come back to see the tradition carried on."

THERE ARE 20 singers/dancers in the Show Choir, and more than half are seniors. And Cockrell says their performance in this year's show will be as special and dynamic as always.

Broadway tunes will include "I Hope I Get It" from "A Chorus Line;" "Find Your Grail" from "Spamalot;" and "We Can Do It," a duet by Justin Brill and Garrett Thatcher, from "The Producers."

From the 1970s will be the songs, "Eli's Coming," "Listen to the Music" and "I've Got the Music in Me." Among the jazz standards and swing music will be "Swing Street," "In a Sentimental Mood" and, with the jazz band, "Paper Moon."

"We open the show with a swing number called 'Big Time,' which is part of our theme," said Cockrell. "And we'll do 'One Night Only' from 'Dream Girls' to close the show."

Several solos are mixed into many of the numbers performed by the whole chorus, and there's even a special, audience-participation number. For the Show Choir, Jazz and Pizzazz is also the sum total of its year.

"We start in the fall and keep adding new sets of music all year," explained Cockrell. "Then we bring all these things together at the end of the year in one, big production."

He also gets some help along the way. Associate Choral Director Mike Fuchs conducts the Chantilly Combo, the instrumental group that travels with the Show Choir; and Chantilly alum Brian Keegan, who was in Jazz and Pizzazz years ago, is the music arranger.

"Another Show Choir alumnus, Sarah Pramstaller, has been working professionally on Broadway and did most of our choreography," said Cockrell. "It's very helpful and is a nice, collaborative effort. They all bring something extra to the show and are all familiar with the program and know what we're doing."

IT'S GOING to be a terrific show, he said, and "We'd really love the community to come and see it. We typically sell out Friday and Saturday, but we'd like to do it all four nights. We want people to see the kids do their stuff."

Cockrell said the choral students definitely work hard to put on this show. "It takes a tremendous commitment of time and effort," he said. And unlike sports seasons that each have beginnings and endings, he added, the choral calendar lasts all year.

"It starts in August and goes through June," he said. "And students not only work during their classtime, but come twice a week after school, when we do our extra sessions for dancing and staging."

Cockrell also praised their "dedicated and talented" parents who help with the costumes. "That's a big part of it," he said. "When the audience sees the show, they're not just seeing the actual production — they're seeing the music, the parents, the school involvement and the support of the teachers and administrative staff."

He said the show is all about the students doing what they love to do — make music — and most have been doing it in the school system's music program since middle school.

"We get kids who saw 'Jazz and Pizzazz' years ago, when they were in fifth grade, and wanted to do it ever since," said Cockrell. "They've dreamed about it for a long time, and it's a neat thing that finally their dreams have come true."