The Mount Si High School MusicDepartment has seen immense growth in the four years since Matt Wenman took over as Band Director, including adding an orchestra and a percussion band and growing from 150 students to about 200.
In May the Mount Si Jazz 1 Band will be heading back to New York City to compete in the prestigious Essentially Ellington high school band competition at Lincoln Center – for the 4th straight year.
Mount Si Band Director Matt Wenman said the community may be getting used to their success, maybe even giving way to a feeling of a ‘loss of importance’ for the invitation-only competition reserved for only 15 of the countries top high school jazz bands.
But he said for he and his student musicians, this fourth invitation still feels just as important… especially this year, which was one of re-building chemistry following the graduation of multiple seniors in 2016.
Wenman said about half of the 18-member MSHS Jazz 1 band is new this year. When asked what this thinks this displays about the band’s continued success, he said it shows what great leaders the older kids are, explaining that they invested a lot of time helping the younger members. And as for those younger jazz musicians, Wenman said it shows how dedicated and hard working they are.
It wasn’t until right before Winter Break that the Jazz 1 band decided unanimously that they wanted to again audition for Essentially Ellington. Wenman said they went into it with the mindset of pursuing excellence, each band member’s own excellence that is.
And he said many in the community don’t realize just how hard these kids work, not only showing up for zero hour practices each day, but taking it many steps further.
Wenman handed out the Essentially Ellington performance sheet music right before winter break – and not only did the kids practice individually, but they got together over the two-week break and held their own rehearsal sessions. They came back to school prepared and ahead of the game.
That month they recorded their audition performance and then waited. In mid February the announcement was made. Out of nearly 100 of the top high school jazz bands, Mount Si was invited back once again.
So back to the Big Apple they head to compete from May 11th – May 13th, which means fundraising has kicked into high gear. Those NYC plane tickets, accommodations don’t come cheap. The school district kicks in some, as do the Band Boosters, but each year it’s a musical fundraising evening that helps get the student musician to New York.
This year’s fundraiser is called Little Town Blues, a night where community members can head to Piccola Cellars in North Bend, 112 W 2nd Ave, on Wednesday, April 5th and enjoy some food and music. The event starts at 6:15PM.
MSHS Jazz I Big Band will perform, as will smaller combos from Jazz I. Students will also provide testimonials about the experience and the impact of the music program on their lives.
Tickets are $75 and includes heavy appetizers, desserts and a beverage. It’s also a great chance to see how the Boxley Music Fund has transformed some of the space where Piccola is located – the old North Bend Fire Station – into a music venue.
You can purchase tickets online HERE.
If you can’t attend but would like to support the band, you can head to the Mount Si Band Essentially Ellington page to make an online donation.
Good Luck, Mount Si Jazz 1! You can enjoy a performance from the band at the 2016 Essentially Ellington competition below: