WARREN, NJ . – Parents, staff and fellow students filled the Performing Arts Center stage at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) to get “this close” to witnessing nearly 70 student musicians explore some 17 classic jazz compositions during the Annual Spring Jazz Concert on Thursday, April 26.

For the Jazz Concert, the PAC stage was dressed down to sport a darkened “jazz club” atmosphere. WHRHS Instrumental Music Teacher and Conductor Paul McCullen said the decision to place both the audience and the performers on stage was part of the strategy to replicate the more “intimate” atmosphere of a jazz club. McCullen said the student musicians ranged from first-year students to seasoned seniors, even musicians selected for All-Region bands. He complemented the music teachers and music programs in the sending districts, Warren, Watchung, Long Hill and Green Brook, for sending WHRHS such well-trained student musicians.

The student musicians seemed to have not just learned and mastered the songs academically, but also warmed up artistically to the songs selections. They came from legendary jazz greats, with numbers composed by the likes of Cole Porter, HoagyCarmichael, Henry Mancini, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, and Charles Mingus, among others.

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In addition, there were a variety of band configurations for the performances. There were three experience levels of straight jazz bands. The most experienced of these bands performed the last four numbers of the evening, and seemed to perform each one flawlessly.

Also performing was the WHRHS Orchestra, which showed just how “jazz cool” stringed instruments could be. There was also a classic All-Star Dixie Band, with only six student performers,that demonstrated just how much it really knew how to capture the “New Orleans” sound, with a rousing rendition of ”When the Saints Go Marching In.” The evening even boasted three sung jazz performances, featuring soloist singers from the WHRHS Choral Music program. One sang with a full jazz band, a popular set up during the golden age of jazz. Two were accompanied by recorded jazz music, including one singing the Frank Sinatra classic, “Fly Me To The Moon.”

For the jazz connoisseur in the audience as well as for the student instrumental musician looking to learn by playing the masters, this performance, like all performances by the musicians, singers, actors and dancers in the WHRHS Arts Department, was designed to both educate and entertain, said WHRHS Arts Department Supervisor Dan Bertelli.

The Spring Arts Season

The Jazz Concert on April 23 kicked off the WHRHS Arts Department Spring Arts Season, which will also include: 

• The Annual Dance Ensemble performance, offered both onFriday and Saturday night, May 11 and 12, in the South Auditorium;

• The Spring Arts Exhibition, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, May 30, 31, and June 1, featuring student creations using a broad array of visual arts media, such as painting, drawing, photography, mixed art, pottery and ceramics, video and filmmaking, jewelry, fashion, weaving, and woodworking. The artwork will be displayed in the school’s main entrance atrium, as well as up and down the corridors surrounding the PAC; 

• On Wednesday evening, May 30, The Script & Cue Drama Department will present “2018 Evolution of Theatre,” in Room 94, across from the backstage entrance to the PAC.“The Audience will surround the stage,” according to the program notes, “as they watch actor’s recreate Theatre’s development from Greek to Modern Theatre.”

• The annual Spring Instrumental and Vocal Music Concerts, with the Instrumental Band Concert on Thursday, May 31, and the Vocal Music Concert, Friday, June 1.

• In addition, the crowd-pleasing “Dancing with the Teachers” evening of fun and expression from unexpected people, pairings and performances, will be held on Monday evening, June 11. 

Jazz Concert Musicians

The student musicians who played at the Jazz Concert were: 

Alto Sax, Conner Cheng, Timothe Iroudayassamy, Grayson Mejia, Manthan Naik, Sanjay Subramanian, and Brendon Tang; Tenor Sax, Andres Marquez, Wyatt Mejia, Adam Moszczynski, John Schmitt, and Vijay Subramanian; and Bari Sax, Brynn Montoro, James Narayanan, and Sean Wittmaack; and

Trumpet, Andrew Cuonzo, Miah Manning, Lauren McAvoy, Carl Peterson, Elisabeth Russo, Matthew Schaefer, and Kathryn Sellinger; Trombone, Ryan Britten, Jack Horan, Martina Lavender, Cristina Sarrico, and Christopher Strona; and

Tuba, Ethan Marmolejos; and

Piano, Bryan Boretz, Anisha Jackson, and Kevin Whittmaack; Guitar, Alex Azarian, Zachary Goodman, and Ben Kosakowski; Bass, Anjali Blow and Kyle Merritts; and Drum Set, Al Tortoriello, Max Schwartz, and Natalia Sosniak.

Violin I, Kaleigh Brunner, Catherine Cai, Emma Golkin, Victor Hu, Dave Ki, Jenny Li, Annamaria Newmark, Carter Rosen, and Tyler Wu; Violin II, Rawan Abdelaty, Isabella Bruno, Harrison Lavelle, Erin Nielsen, Gabriella Pontoriero, Shruthi Ramasamy, Luis Rodrigues, Neha Venkatesh, Luke Viera and Tiffany Wang; Viola, Zoe Golkin, Emma Selvin, Joselyn Wang, Valerie Wang, and Jaimie Yue; Cello, Roshni Dave, Madeline Dietrich, Daria Monti, Spencer Shao, Ariana Stoddard, and William Wu; and Bass, Anjali Blow, Benjamin DeGuilo, and Michael Horzepa.

Jazz Concert Program

The Program of songs included the following numbers:

By the WHRHS Jazzy Band, “Begin the Beguine,” by Cole Porter; “Georgia on My Mind,” by Hoagy Carmichael; and “It Had Better Be Tonight,” by Henry Mancini, featuring student vocalist Summer Stuart;

By the WHRHS Orchestra, Disney Classics, featuring a medley of  “Chim Chim Cheree,” from “Mary Poppins,” “A Dream is a Wish,” from “Cinderella,” “It’s a Small World (After All),” and “Zippity Doo Dah;” and  “Highlights from ‘Jersey Boys’,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Walk Like A Man,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes off You,”

By the WHRHS Lab Band, “My Little Suede Shoes,” by Charlie Parker; “Caravan,” by Duke Ellington; “Four,” by Miles Davis;and “Superstition,” by Stevie Wonder;

Student soloists accompanied by recorded music: Justin Horowitz singing “Fly Me to the Moon,” by Bart Howard,” and Nicole Bell singing “Proud,” by Heather Small;

By the WHRHS All-Star Dixie Band, “Lazy River,” by HoagyCarmichael and Sidney Arodin, and “When The Saints Go Marching In,” originally a traditional Black Spiritual, first recorded as a jazz number in 1938 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra; and

By the WHRHS Jazz Band: “Basie – Straight Ahead,” featuring music recorded by Count Basie and his Orchestra; “Cottontail,” by Duke Ellington; “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” by Charlie Mingus;” and “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” by Gordon Goodwin.