Last week marked the final summer 2013 performance of Jazz Colony, a group of Edmonds-Woodway High School students dedicated to becoming better musicians through live performances and professional musician instruction.
Jazz Colony was started four years ago by EWHS Jazz Band parent Pete Bennett. After the band went to compete in the prestigious Essentially Ellington competition in New York City, Bennett saw that many musicians were playing “jam sessions,” where members improvised and started playing tunes with each other.
“That really got me goin’,” Bennett says. He started with an idea of a program that would allow students to continue with their skills instead of putting the instrument down for the summer vacation.
Bennett then pitched the idea to the EWHS Jazz Band Director Jake Bergevin, who gave Bennett his support. Jazz Colony started with about 12 students and regular jam sessions, but after four years, the group has grown to around 30 students with jam sessions every Tuesday evening and local gigs such as their last performance at Anthony’s Beach Cafe.
“It really helps them improve as players,” Bennett says.
Bennett’s son, Max, an inaugural Jazz Colony member, will be attending Whitworth University in the fall on a jazz scholarship.
“It’s a great thing to look forward to in the week,” the 19-year-old Max said of his Jazz Colony experience. “Playing in a combo really helps you evaluate yourself as a musician.”
The younger Bennett plays the tenor saxophone and even is in his own band, called Avenue B. And even though his Jazz Colony experience is over, he plans to keep playing. He will be auditioning for the jazz band at Whitworth this fall.
Jazz Band participants have a chance to perform with professional musicians such as Steve Treseler and Alex Dugdale, who played with the group at Wednesday’s performance, Pete Bennett said.
“All the kids here-they’re so dedicated. They really want to improve as musicians,” he added.
The students who sign up for the summer program are required to register in advance and pay $100, which goes toward the equipment and T-shirts that the band wears. Anyone attending EWHS is welcome to sign up every summer.
— Story by Alexandra Stoffel