Jazz night gives musicians a taste of the biz

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Some of Okotoks’ young musical talent is branching out beyond the confines of the band room for a rare opportunity to perform for a paying audience.

Alberta High School of Fine Arts and Westmount School are teaming up for a unique jazz night called Big Band Bash, transforming the Foothills Centennial Centre into an elegant jazz club on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.

Drummer Ty Graham, with the fine art school’s senior jazz band, said he and his band mates have prepared a selection of swing and funk songs from the upbeat Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing) to the funky What is Hip.

“The idea is for people to get up and dance and have more of a fun time than just sitting there and watching kids play,” he said. “There is going to be a lot more energy than a bunch of people just sitting and clapping. ”

With plans to pursue music in university, Graham said it’s a great introduction into the world of performing gigs.

“It gives you an audience that wants to engage with the music and be a part of it rather than just watch it happen,” he said. “It’s a different experience than just playing for a concert because there are more than just parents there, it’s more of a community event.”

The pressure is on for the young performers, and Graham is feeling it.

“It is more than just the parents that are going to say that we did a good job,” Graham said. “It’s more for other people.”

Alberta High School of Fine Arts music director Jeff Graham is the brains behind Big Band Bash, after hosting similar events while teaching music in Nova Scotia.

“It’s an opportunity for the kids to play for an audience that’s willing to dance,” he said. “It’s about trying to get the community to come out and hear the kids play music and dance.”

Big Band Bash will showcase the talent of approximately 50 band students from Westmount School’s jazz band and Alberta High School of Fine Arts’ junior and senior jazz bands and vocal ensemble.

“We’ve mainly focused on jazz and dance music,” said Jeff. “It benefits all the students in the music program at both schools.”

Jeff said the young musicians are pretty stoked to get on stage and share their talent.

“They are really excited to perform for an audience that’s not just going to sit there and clap, but get up and have a dance or two,” he said. “We put on concerts quite a bit in the schools, but this will definitely be a different feel.”

Ideally, Jeff would like to make the Big Band Bash an annual event to give students more exposure to the world of performing, and adults a child-free night of jazz music.

“I’m just excited to bring a bunch of energy to the kids and let them express themselves as individuals,” he said.

Tickets to attend Big Band Bash cost $20 and can be purchased at Westmount School or at eventbrite.ca.

Money raised from ticket sales, a silent auction, cake auction and diamond draw will help offset costs for the band programs.

Beverages and desserts will be provided.

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