Three Cherokee County schools participated in the District Jazz competition at the Sioux City Convention Center on February 9th, and they all did quite well.
Thirty-one schools from Northwest Iowa entered the competition, which is hosted by the Northwest Iowa Bandmasters Association. The top eight schools (two schools in each of four classes) now qualify for the April 12 State Jazz Championships in Des Moines.
The Class 1A winner on Wednesday was the Aurelia High School Jazz Band, directed by Ryan Meyer. The win qualified the Aurelia Jazz Band for the State Jazz Championships for the 13th time in 14 years, a feat accomplished under the direction of three different band directors - Paul McEntaffer, Jason Heeren and Meyer - and, obviously, with several different groups of musicians.
In their previous 12 trips to the State Jazz Festival, the Aurelia band has placed in the top 8 (trophy class) nine times. This year's band includes 22 members - two seniors, seven juniors, four sophomores, two freshmen, five eighth graders, and two seventh graders, so the future looks to continue to be bright for the Aurelia Jazz Band, which next year will move into a higher class as they join with the Alta School District. Many members of the two bands have alreeady played together this year in a few Pep Band settings.
Aurelia Band Director Ryan Meyer said, "The kids played extremely well. It was our best performance of the year up to this point. We had four students earn solo awards - Kate Carlson on vibes, KerstinTuttle on bass, Audrey Winterhof on alto sax, and Gracie Winterhof on piano. I'm excited for what our future brings because the kids are improving rapidly, not only as jazz musicians, but as musicians in general."
Meyer went on to say that he feels his students are "the hardest working and most down-to-earth kids that you will find anywhere. "These kids work hard at whatever they do, be it concert band, jazz band, solo/ensemble, drumline, or lesson material. All of that hard work is being put on display right now at the different competitions."
The Aurelia Jazz Band has a full slate this spring. They performed on Saturday Feb. 12th at the Bluffs Jazz Festival in Council Bluffs, then returned to Aurelia and entertained with dinner music at the "Sweetheart's Supper" at St. Paul Lutheran Church Sunday evening. On Monday, Feb. 21, they will perform at the Lewis and Clark Jazz Festival at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City.
Aurelia folks will get a chance to hear this fine ensemble at the High School Pops concert on Monday March 7, and then, on Thursday March 17, the jazz band will play at the USD Coyote Jazz Festival in Vermillion, S.D. The State Jazz Championships are Tuesday, April 12 in Des Moines.
Two of the band directors who previously guided the Aurelia Jazz Band will also be taking their current bands to the State Jazz Festival this year. Paul McEntaffer's Cherokee Jazz Band finished second to Rock Valley in Wednesday's Class 2A competition, and Jason Heeren's Storm Lake ensemble finished second to MOC-Floyd Valley in Class 3A.
Liz Ross (trombone), Rachel Corken (tenor sax), Amanda Kellen (piano), Abby Hayes (alto sax), Jake Spindler (trumpet) and Nate Fowler (vibes) have all received soloist awards at various festivals this year.
Washington High School Band director McEntaffer said it was great to go back to the Morningside Festival,as he is a 1996 Graduate of Morningside College.
Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn finished fifth in Class 1A, and South O'Brien took home fifth in Class 2A at the Morningside event.
The concept of jazz bands for Iowa High Schools really got its impetus from 1962 Aurelia High School graduate Dan Peterson, when he was the band director at Valley West High School in Des Moines. Peterson is now the Director of Bands at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, and he was one of the judges at the Morningside Festival.