BY ABBY WIDELL —
The Shorewood High School Jazz Combo showcased their impressive talent at the Oakland Avenue Colectivo on April 10 where they performed for a large and appreciative audience.
This seven-member ensemble is drawn from the larger SHS jazz ensemble, and their main focus lies in improvisation. Ben Schneider, jazz specialist and parent, directs the jazz combo, working hard to organize rehearsals, books gigs and picks music.
“We’re just a small group of kids: one person on each main jazz instrument and we play short tunes for different things around the community,” said Gretchen Froelich, sophomore.
Froelich covers tenor saxophone in the ensemble. David Deshpande, sophomore, plays drums, with James Ewing, junior, and Schneider rounding out the rhythm section on bass and piano respectively. Justine Spore, senior, plays trumpet, and Jake Marble and Luke Whittman, juniors, cover trombone and alto saxophone respectively.
The ensemble has performed five times this year, twice at Colectivo, and three times in December, playing holiday-based gigs, like the Shorewood Christmas tree lighting and a Discovery World Event.
“We have been getting better and better by just playing more together,” Schneider said. “Improvisation is tough and takes practice so the students have been getting more comfortable with that.”
In previous years, the SHS band has experimented with a small touring ensemble, but the Jazz Combo is the first official group complete with a director. At the beginning of the year, it was decided that this musical group would be assembled, so Schneider sat down with Nick Castonguay, band director and Spore and they picked their ideal ensemble. The students have been gaining momentum and building their repertoire through their numerous Friday lunch rehearsals.
“We’ve really grown as a whole. After we went to a competition and a judge gave us pointers on how to improve, we started looking deeper into our music and adding creative features. We’ve definitely improved since the first time we played together,” Froelich said.
With so many driven students, so devoted to their instruments, the future of the Shorewood High School Jazz Combo is a very bright one. While no official plans have been finalized for the 2016-17 school year, the combo has every intention of continuing on.
“We are hoping to play a lot more in the summer and keep up what we have accomplished so far. We will lose Justine Spore since she is a senior but everyone else is coming back and we will also probably be able to add new people to our group,” said Schneider.
“[In the future] I think we are going to keep things pretty similar to how they are now. We are going to keep focusing on playing pieces that people can enjoy around the community and keep the interest within people that want to audition for Jazz Combo and the interests of people who like what we do,” Froelich said.