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Morning Sun
  • Jazz Fest provides critiques, concert

  • An all-day festival Friday allowed students in jazz bands throughout the four states to compete, have their performances critiqued and to hear world-class pros play.

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  • An all-day festival Friday allowed students in jazz bands throughout the four states to compete, have their performances critiqued and to hear world-class pros play.
    Bob Kehle, who is faculty at the Pittsburg State University Department of Music,  has been coordinating the festival since 1978 and said it is about educating the students who attend.
    Throughout the day, bands from as far away as Wichita and Springfield performed and were critiqued and rated at four different venues around Pittsburg, and in the evening they had the opportunity to hear members of the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band perform.
    “I want them to be able to hear that quality of a group,” Kehle said. “There’s no way to realize the quality that can be until they hear it.”
    He also said the concert is an incredible opportunity for the community.
    “It gives the regular person on the street the opportunity to hear really, really great jazz.”
    While Dizzy Gillespie died two decades ago, members of his band still play together, and Kehle said that is an incredible opportunity for his students.
    “It’s great for my students, because they get to brush elbows with them,” Kehle said.
    Kehle’s students will open for the All-Star Big Band, which he said is coming to town in part due to a friendship between band member Claudio Roditi and PSU faculty member Todd Hastings.
    He said winter weather across the nation has made a few of the band’s travel arrangements dicey at times throughout the week, but that it is worth it to cap off a day of learning with a world-class performance.
    For students and directors who attended the day’s events, the opportunity to learn and be critiqued offers a chance to build and strengthen their own programs as they produce a new generation of musicians.
    Willey Abati, band director at Girard High School, said he brought 28 students and was proud of receiving the second-highest rating given.
    “We received a II rating,” he said. “They did well. They did very, very well. I was pleased.”
    Additionally, pianist Bethany Schifferdecker and drummer Alex Tippie both received outstanding musicianship awards.
    Abati said jazz band is an extracurricular activity and the group meets before school twice a week to practice.
    “They liked the way we fit the style for jazz stuff,” Abati said. “They liked the way we interpreted and played that.”
    “They talked about continuing to work on balance throughout all the sections and to make sure we had someone playing the base guitar.”
    Abati said the feedback is extremely valuable to his program.
    “All 13 years that I’ve been here at Girard, we’ve come to this festival,” Abati said. “It always gives me really good feedback about what to improve on. We always want to get better.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Abati said the judges were complimentary on the tightness of the music considering the relatively large size of the group, but also encouraged continued work in the same area.
    “I know you have an awful lot of kids, and you guys are really making a good effort and doing a really good job,” Abati said he was told.
    Kehle said this is what it is about.
    “With our judges, I want our kids to feel a positive experience,” he said.
    No winners are named at the competition, and it is more about giving each band the opportunity to learn what it does and does not do well.
    “It’s the educational aspect of it that’s critical,” Kehle said.
    He said instructors like the idea of having the judges come up and work with their students after their performance.
    The festival also gives the bands exposure to their peers’ music.
    “Lots of directors will have kids listen to other bands,” Kehle said.
    At the end of the day, each band goes home with information about how to become even better, and Kehle said he will begin thinking about the coming year’s festival.
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