Jazz bands wow SRO crowd

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

As far as musical talent goes, it's highly unlikely one would ever be surrounded with such quality and quantity as was the case March 14th at The Gathering Place in downtown Cherokee, in the heart of the city's Cultural & Entertainment District.

The cause for the Rahs was "the gathering" of three well-decorated area high school jazz bands - South O'Brien, Aurelia, and Cherokee - plus Buena Vista University's stellar Jazz Ensemble.

The event, now vowed to become an annual affair, featured the four bands performing three or four songs each over the course of two hours that brought more ovations than a presidential State Of The Union address from the overflowing, appreciative crowd.

The fact that the high school bands performed many of their polished, well-rehearsed contest songs only served to put the quality of the music way over the top.

The event was the brainchild of the three high school jazz band directors, all with ties to the Aurelia program. Jason Heeren is the current Aurelia Jazz Band director, and Cherokee director Paul McEntaffer preceded him there. Ryan Rager, a BVU graduate, student taught at Aurelia and is now the South O'Brien director.

The addition of the BVU band was icing on the cake, thanks to Dr. David Klee, BVU Jazz Band director and a proud resident of this wonderful community. Enhancing the BVU band were fellow trombonists Heeren, Rager, and Aurelia senior Renae Hinkeldey.

Proceeds from the free-will offering accepted at the door will go to the Cherokee Arts Council to help support Cherokee's annual Jazz & Blues Festival each January.

The offering was originally going to go to the high school jazz bands, but the directors decided they wanted the proceeds to go to the Jazz & Blues Festival, because their bands receive free instruction from professional musicians each year during the high school music clinic portion of the Jazz & Blues Festival at the Cherokee Middle School.

In introducing the bands, Gathering Place host Jomi Anderson praised the event, saying that the mission of The Gathering Place is to provide a place for kids and their music, where they can learn and perform.

In fact, the entire, historically-restored building housing The Gathering Place is called the Cherokee Institute of Performing Arts (CIPA) and is owned by Jim Davis, Steve Thomas, and Dr. Brian Fulton.

After raving about the quality of the high school bands, and the incredible fun and appreciation all present experienced, Dr. Klee and the high school directors each vowed to make it an annual affair.

"This event is the kind of stuff Cherokee is fast getting known for," added Klee. "I think this is exciting and wonderful and can't wait to do it again."

To that we say a hearty, "Amen."