SPARTA, NJ —The music department of northern New Jersey’s Sparta High School is hosting its first Jazz Festival on May 3. It’s the most ambitious event in the history of the school’s music department, which has long been considered among the best in the state.

The Festival, which will take place in the modern, thousand-seat auditorium of Sparta High School, is a chance for the public to witness the remarkably high level of musicianship among area students—and an opportunity to enjoy a unique and exciting night of high-level live entertainment for less than the price of a movie ticket!

The Festival will find the township’s jazz bands hosting several regional groups, including the Sparta Township schools' Jazz Bands,  Pope John XXIII High School Jazz Band, as well as ensembles from Byram, Newton, Vernon, West Milford, and Scotch Plains-Fanwood, and from the Lenape Valley and North Warren regional high schools. Bands will receive awards that will recognize their achievement as a band as a whole, as well as individual sections, and soloists.

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As is the tradition at jazz festivals, adjudicators have been drawn from the local professional music community, and these highly regarded musicians will rate each group’s performance and offer constructive advice to the students and their directors. Andy Lopez, director of jazz bands in the Sparta Township school district and the organizer of the Festival, has arranged for several esteemed New York–area performer/educators to participate:

  • Saxophonist Alex Foster of the Mingus Big Band, Saturday Night Live Orchestra
  • Trumpeter, composer, and producer Richard Boulger of the AllmanBrothers Band,
  • Randy Brecker and  
  • Former Sparta Jazz Band director Chris Arnold.

“With this jazz festival our goals are simple,” says Lopez. “We’re going to provide a top-notch educational experience for our performers by providing a state-of-the-art performance space, and by allowing our area band directors and their students to receive constructive feedback from some of the top jazz musicians and educators in the country.”

With enthusiasm for the first Sparta High School Jazz Festival reaching fever pitch among student musicians, parents, and the community at large, there’s already been talk about making it an annual event. For now, however, Lopez and his crew of organizers are focused on the success of this year’s show.

“Hosting a festival like this is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. Deciding to finally make it happen was an easy choice when I considered what a supportive music family we have here in Sparta. Everyone is chipping in to make what we know will be a memorable night of music.”

The curtains open at 5 p.m. with awards ceremony set for 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door: $10 for adults, $5 for children under 12, ages six and under are free.