Jazz is a genre where like-minded students can really find their ‘place’, according to St Stephen’s School Director of Music Andrea Stimson.
It is a ‘place’ that has grown in popularity, with the number of students auditioning for the Duncraig Jazz Program growing exponentially in recent years, with many members going on to make a name for themselves on the Perth music scene.
“Developing Jazz literacy is something that takes time and needs to be nurtured,” Miss Stimson said.
“We have so many fantastic Jazz tutors and teachers to help our students succeed both in the classroom and beyond, as the program opens up a range of opportunities for members to reach out and experience music on a bigger scale.”
The Program sees students learning jazz repertoire in the classroom with WAAPA trained Jazz Educator and Big Band Jazz Ensembles Director Jack Keady while working through the “Maiden Voyage” jazz standards on their instrument and performing them with other instruments in small groups.
Students are encouraged to ‘jam’ their jazz standards together during recess and lunch breaks and organise “Jazz on the Balcony” sessions during the year so they can gain valuable performance experience to prepare them for the music industry in the future.
Some of our more advanced Jazz students are also taking part in the Western Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra (WAYJO) Northern Corridor Big Band project, which is based at St Stephen's School; WAYJO Club; Young Women in Jazz; WAAPA Improvisation Workshop; WAAPA Jazz Summer School; the Hyde Park Jazz Parade and the WA Schools Jazz Festival, held at WAAPA in August.
“We also focus on developing the skills of improvisation in the New Orleans Marching Band and the Funk Band, where a great deal of the music is improvised.”
Mastering improvisational skills was one of the drawcards for Duncraig Year 10 Morgan Ineson, who has been playing the trombone for around four years. He started the instrument to aide in his plan of joining the Scots Guard when he finishes school.
“Being part of the Jazz program helps with confidence, rhythmic articulation and it develops your musical ability and improvisation skills – I think jazz does this better than other genre because it is more upbeat and lyrical,” Morgan said.
Fellow jazz enthusiast Year 9 Dexter Bell plays alto and tenor saxophone, among other instruments. He has been involved with almost all the extra programs listed above and said the Program has helped with his confidence.
“Before I picked up the saxophone, I wouldn’t have been able to talk in front of big groups, but the Program gives access to these opportunities and helps with my skills and experience of playing in a Big Band; I definitely want to study Jazz at WAAPA and become a professional jazz saxophonist,” Dexter said.
Year 9 percussionist Cara-Lea Becker was first inspired to pick up her drumsticks to emulate her favourite drummer Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots. Now she takes on an array of percussion instruments in the Jazz Program and said the experience of performing alongside other jazz musicians in a Big Band has been great.
“Learning with a Big Band really helps you to listen to everyone else’s part while being focused on your own part and working together,” Cara-Lea said.
She said she has watched the Jazz Program grow.
“It’s great because you’re with people who have shared interests and similar personalities so it’s easy to make friends where we bounce off each other musically and socially,” Cara-Lea said.
“I think when you’re comfortable with the people you’re around, you’re also more likely to try new things and learn from one another.”