Arts & Entertainment

Spotswood High School Jazz Band Dedicates Performance To Longtime Band Parent And Musician

Emma Tilley opened the Evening of Jazz and Such with a vocal and ukulele performance. Credits: Dawn Miller
Devin Ryan performed with both the Music Club and Jazz Band. Credits: Dawn Miller
Students auditioned in December to be a part of the Spotswood High School Jazz Band. Credits: Dawn Miller
Dylan Whitfield performed four solos on the tenor sax. Credits: Dawn Miller
Aaron Roy played a tenor sax solo on "Sister Sadie." Credits: Dawn Miller
Stephen Gardner performed a solo on "Birdland." Credits: Dawn Miller

SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The Spotswood High School Music Department held its annual Evening of Jazz and Such on Thursday at the Spotswood High School Cafetorium. The event featured performances by three members of the high school's Music Club as well as the 2017 Spotswood High School Jazz Band.

Prior to the start of the evening's musical entertainment, Spotswood High School Band Director, Sarah Carino-Koza took the stage to introduce the night's agenda, dedicating the concert to Milltown resident and longtime band parent, Paul Biss. According to his obituary, Biss passed away on March 27 at JFK Medical Center with his family at his bedside. Biss was the father of former Spotswood High School student and band member, Jason Biss.

"Tonight's Jazz Band will be dedicating their performance to Mr. Paul Biss who sadly passed away very suddenly at the beginning of this week," Carino-Koza said in her introduction. "Mr. Biss was an active band parent along with his wife Claire. They were very familiar faces at all of our concerts. We will miss him greatly. So, tonight's Jazz Band performance will be dedicated to his memory."

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Participants from the Music Club took the stage first with a six set selection of songs. The Music Club has been an extra-curricular activity for students at the high school for the past five years and is under the direction of veteran educator Christopher Talish. Talish has been a science teacher at Spotswood High School for the past 16 years.

Senior Emma Tilley opened the show with Walk The Moon's "Anna Sun," accompanying herself on the ukulele. Tilley then moved over to the piano for Twenty One Pilots' "Before You Start Your Day." Sarah Fisher played two songs on the piano, including a selection from Broadway play, "Waitress." Junior Devin Ryan concluded the showcase by the Music Club with Sam Smith's "Lay Me Down" and Ed Sheeran's "Dive." Ryan also accompanied her vocals using the ukulele and the piano.

After a ten-minute intermission, the Jazz Band took the stage. Students auditioned for the Jazz Band back in December and have been rehearsing twice a week since winter break. The 2017 Jazz Band includes Stephen Gardner, Kaitlyn Ciak and Krista Vanwageninge on alto saxophone, Solomon Tyson on baritone saxophone, Dylan Whitfield and Aaron Roy on tenor saxophone, Jeanne Parrilla on flute, Kevin Ehresman, Matt Chludzinski, Melanie Miller, Ronald Contard and Ryan Miller on trumpet, Andrew Faulkenberry on trombone, Michael Pinnella on baritone, Justin Thompson on bass guitar, Devin Ryan on vibes and piano as well as Anthony Bonacci, Dan Pinnella and Sean Wesen on drums.

Their toe-tapping and upbeat set highlighted the diversity of jazz music while spanning the decades. The selections, including "Cold Sweat," "25 0r 6 To 4," "Sister Sadie," "Autumn Leaves," "Mas Que Nada" and Birdland. Five of the six pieces also featured solos by Whitfield, Ehresman, Michael Pinnella, Dan Pinnella, Roy, Bonacci, Ryan, Parrilla, Melanie Miller, Chludzinski, Thompson, Ciak, Contard and Gardner.

"You probably noticed something a little different about our program this year," Carino-Koza explained prior to "Sister Sadie." "We have a lot of soloists. We made it our mission this year to spend a lot of time talking about how to solo."

At the end of each rehearsal, the budding musicians experimented with the mechanics of jazz solos.

"Afterwards the requests for solos started rolling in., which is why we have a lot of soloists," Carino-Koza said. "It's great because that's what jazz is all about."

The next performance by the Jazz Band will be at the upcoming Festivals of Music in Cleveland, Ohio in April, which will highlight the talents of middle and high school musicians from the United States and Canada. The Jazz Band as well as the Spotswood High School Concert Band and Honors Wind Ensemble will perform. The Music Club will hold one final performance this year in May.


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