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It’s first place for the jazz band at Lionel Hampton

South Whidbey High School senior Scott Watts solos out front of the high school jazz ensemble during a performance at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival on Feb. 26. - Submitted photo
South Whidbey High School senior Scott Watts solos out front of the high school jazz ensemble during a performance at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival on Feb. 26.
— image credit: Submitted photo

A standing ovation from an audience of 1,500 people is pretty heady stuff for anybody, but especially for members of the South Whidbey High School Jazz Band. The spotlight shone brightly on South Whidbey’s jazz musicians who performed at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival last month.

South Whidbey High School’s jazz band was judged an “outstanding” first place in its division. It was highest finish by the band at the festival since placing second two years ago.

South Whidbey High School Band Director Jeffery Cohen said, “I am really proud of my students.”

Winning the Lionel Hampton shows the depth of talent we have in the band, and getting to perform as winners on the main stage was a great opportunity for them Cohn said.

Not to be outdone, the Langley Middle School jazz band, under the direction of Chris Harshman, earned a second place among their peers during the 38th annual festival at the University of Idaho.

Scott Watts, a senior trumpet player in the band was thrilled with his band’s performance.

“It was really cool... we all played well,” he said.

Watts and senior guitarist Charlie Patnoe performed a set with the South Whidbey High School Jazz Combo that brought audience members to their feet.

“We had some serious hot going,” Watts said.

While South Whidbey High School jazz ensemble brought home the top honors, the runner-up in that division was the Sitka High School band, led by former South Whidbey High School band director Brent Purvis.

“Having Purvis in the audience when we played so well was a bonus. It was great to show him how we’re doing with Mr. Cohen,” Watts said.

There was a moment of drama when judges miscalculated points and announced that Sitka High School with Purvis took first place honors. The judges corrected themselves and put South Whidbey on top.

Sitka and the South Whidbey bands played in the festival’s final concert on Feb. 26.

The Langley Middle School Jazz Ensemble competed against middle and junior high schools, including many twice the size of LMS and some that included high school freshmen. The band earned special recognition for its music selection, and the performance established the band as one of the premier middle school jazz ensembles in the region.

The Lionel Hampton music festival bills itself as the biggest educational jazz festival in the world, and it attracts world class jazz professional jazz musicians. Student musicians from the western U.S., Alaska and as far away as Indiana and Massachusetts and Canada competed attended. The student vocal and instrumental groups performed for adjudicators and the outstanding groups were featured in student concerts. The young musicians also attended clinics presented by more than 50 professional jazz artists appearing at the festival. Organizers report that 117 bands, 74 combos of up to 10 musicians and 160 soloists participated.

In January, the LMS jazz band was the only middle school group invited to participate with some of the state’s finest high school ensembles in the Central Washington University Jazz Invitational. Langley Middle School was one of four schools, out of a total of 21, to earn a Gold Award for its performance.

“They earned a Gold Award and received a standing ovation from audience, judges and other bands,” Chris Harshman said.

Recipients of outstanding solo awards at that festival were Landon Moore on alto sax, Jasper Hayes on guitar, and Keegan Harshman on string bass and solo awards went to Grant Neubauer on piano, Tim Atkinson on trumpet, Landon Moore on alto sax and Keegan Harshman on string bass.

One month later the band placed among the top three performing middle school bands at the Bellevue Community College of Jazz Festival. The other top bands were Reno National Champions; Washington Middle School and Eckstein School.

INFO BOX

South Whidbey School District jazz musicians winners at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival February in Moscow Idaho.

Outstanding A Band

• Langley, Wash. South Whidbey High School, Jeffrey Cohen, director

• Baker City, Ore. Runner up: Baker High School, Jeff Sizer, director

• Sitka, Alaska Runner up: Sitka High School, Brent Purvis, director

Outstanding Junior Division Band

• Seattle, Wash. Washington Middle School, Robert Knatt, director

• Langley, Wash. runner up: Langley Middle School, Chris Harshman, director

• Richland, Wash. runner up: Hanford Middle School, Michael Bryan, director

Outstanding A Choir

• Sitka, Alaska Sitka High School, Brent Purvis, director

• Shoreline, Wash. Runner up: King’s High School I, Wayne Pumphrey, director

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Jeffery Cohen, band director at South Whidbey High School

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