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Corvallis Jazz Band on Montana Public Radio Wednesday
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Corvallis Jazz Band on Montana Public Radio Wednesday

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Jazz lovers are in for a treat as John Arvish is featuring local bands this week on his Montana Public Radio show “What I Like about Jazz,” 8-10 p.m. Wednesday, March 24.

The Corvallis High School Jazz Band will be featured along with Sentinel High School, Hellgate High School and Big Sky High School.

John Arvish, program host, said he would also include some music recorded by the University of Montana Jazz Band and a local band called Kung Fu Kongress.

“I’ll put in some music by them but my real focus will be the four high school bands,” Arvish said Tuesday. “I’m really excited, I think it is going to be a great show. I regularly make a point of featuring artists who came to Montana or are working in Montana, and MTPR is really great about that.”

Inspiration for the show also came from being a teacher at Victor Schools and his involvement in Jazzoula, an annual event put on by the Missoula Blues and Jazz Society.

“My teaching career definitely impacts my belief in music education, and in Public Radio,” Arvish said.

For Jazzoula, he is the stage manager, assistant sound person and co-emcee.

“I know area music teachers and I see a lot of kids,” he said. “One of the things that Jazzoula does is spotlight high school and college kids as part of their festival. That initially started as a co-event with the Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival.”

Jazzoula, featuring 25 local and regional bands, started Arvish thinking about creating the show that will air this Wednesday.

“But really, Willi Prince was the one who put the final pieces together,” he said.

CHS Jazz Band instructor Willi Prince said it is an opportunity for her students to be heard by a larger audience.

“This is a great way to get bands heard a little bit more as some schools aren’t even able to do concerts yet,” she said. “Some of the schools don’t even have a jazz band right now due to COVID. Some of them are doing rotations and may have jazz band later.”

The bands’ performances are prerecorded.

“[Directors] shared recordings we already had,” Prince said. “We shared recordings we had made in class or previous performances, whatever we had and could share with the radio team.”

The CHS Jazz Band will start the show performing Duke Ellington’s “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and then their final piece is a newer piece by Patty Darling called “The Next Chapter.”

Arvish will do live phone interviews with students, by phone due to COVID-19 precautions.

From CHS, interviews will be with sophomore Jacob Domsalla (trumpet), and seniors Hunter Webber (bass) and Hunter Paladin (trombone).

Prince said band members feel excited to be heard.

“The band gets nervous about performing but they thought it was pretty cool and are sharing the details with all their family that is out of town,” she said. “It will be a good way for the community to hear them right now with concerts being limited to just a few family members. This way extended family can hear it as well as friends and people who would normally come but don’t get to come [due to COVID restrictions.]”

This school year the CHS Jazz Band has worked to showcase its talents in as many venues as possible. At Christmas, they performed carols in the halls by the main entrance to lift everyone’s spirits.

“The kids got excited about it. It gave them another opportunity to perform and it brought attention to our program with the other students being able to hear them,” Prince said. “We did some performances in the middle school, so it was like automatic recruitment.”

In band class, students wear masks between playing.

“When they bring their instrument up to their face and are playing, they pull their mask down, and when we are in between songs or they are resting they pull their masks back up,” Prince said. “The pianists, guitar player and percussionists have to wear their masks the whole time.”

At CHS the periods last for 90-minutes but students are given mask breaks and the music program has cut back their rehearsal time due to the COVID standards developed by the National Association for Music Education (NAME).

“We are only to practice for one hour and then give the room time to air out after that,” Prince said. “The kids get to play and we’ve gotten things put together, gotten songs ready to be performed, it is pretty amazing.”

Prince said the first semester of the school year there were many quarantines.

“It was hard to even complete a song,” she said. “It takes us a couple of months to learn a piece of music. They are studying advanced music that is between high school level and early college level.”

The CHS Jazz Band will be at the start of the MTPR show, right at 8 p.m. To listen to interviews and performances tune your radio dial to 91.9 in Hamilton or 89.1 in Missoula.

“This is a great group of kids, they work really hard,” Prince said. “This has been a really hard year, emotionally. It has been a relief to be able to continue to play music and to perform.”

Arvish said he will probably do another similar show about local jazz bands later in the spring.

“I’ve got a couple more schools who were not able to get something together right now but are still working on something,” he said.

This week is the UM Buddy DeFranco Jazz Virtual Festival with a recorded concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 25.

“Bands recorded songs and submitted them to UM,” Arvish said. “All week they are adjudicating and doing zoom clinics virtually. There is one concert that is a combination of UM faculty and students.”

For the live stream link to watch the free concert search showtix4u and enter University of Montana.

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