Arts and Entertainment

AHS jazz bands 'Swing into Spring'

Jazz musicians of Arlington High School had an exciting weekend last week at the Reno Jazz Festival, complete with earthquake.

They did not win any prizes, however, according to their teacher, John Grabowski.

"It was super competitive this year," he said, noting that there were 9,000 kids on the University of Nevada campus, with 180 bands ranging in age from middle school to four-year colleges, 90 percent from California.

"It's the biggest jazz festival in the western states," Grabowski said.

"We didn't even place in the top five, but it's OK. I love to see my students be challenged." They competed with a Chick Corea song called "Spain."

Grabowski takes his students to the Reno Festival every other year.

This year, the festival was inconveniently set on the same weekend as the Washington Music Educators Association's state solo and ensemble conference in Ellensburg, where two of On Hold's key members were qualified to compete.

Eric McElroy and Jacob Aylesworth both qualified to compete at state by winning at the Mount Pilchuck Music Educators Association level.

A sophomore, Eric McElroy won the right to compete at state with his performance of a piano solo, "Passacaglia" by Aaron Copland at the MPMEA competition.

Aylesworth competed in Ellensburg on the tuba playing "Impromptus for Solo Tuba, Op. 32," by Robert Muczynski. Both musicians performed their pieces at the Blue and Gold Recital at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center earlier this year.

McElroy was already floating on his recent laurels of being invited to the national Music Educators Conference in Milwaukee. He was invited to conduct a performance by Whitewater Brass Quintet from the University of Wisconsin of his own composition, "Brass Quintet in Two Movements." He was selected through a Young Composer Talent Search that named 22 winners from across the United States ranging in age from seventh-grade to age 28 in a variety of categories including vocal and instrumental music for solos and ensembles.

Both McElroy and Aylesworth intended to go to Reno on April 24 for a portion of that event, returning to Seattle after their performance on Friday to drive over to Ellensburg Saturday morning to compete at the state level. Unfortunately McElroy didn't go to Reno because he woke up sick Thursday morning when they were scheduled to fly, according to his mother, Patty McElroy.

Although McElroy was still a bit sick and Aylesworth was undoubtedly a bit tired, they still did well at state competition.

"Both scored all 1s," Patty McElroy said.

"They both got the highest score, but didn't get any awards," she explained, adding that the judges choose the winners from among all the perfect scores.

"I guess you could call it the equivalent to honorable mention, though they don't call it that," Patty said.

With the outstanding talents of these two young men and all of the bands' preparations for various competitions in recent months, the On Hold band members are well-prepared for the up-coming Swing into Spring Dessert Dance, May 9 and 10, when the AHS Commons, 18821 Crown Ridge Blvd., is transformed into the Easy G Jazz Club. The show opens with Grabowski's Jazz II jazz band. On Hold is an audition-only ensemble that rehearses 7 a.m. daily and Jazz II is a volunteer jazz band that rehearses weekly on Tuesday evenings.

"These kids are outstanding," Grabowski said. "It's a joy to travel with them. They make it very easy for me." Grabowski's biggest challenge was getting back into his room after he locked himself out of his room with no ID during the earthquake that rattled Reno at 11:30 p.m., Friday that weekend.

They all came home safe and sound and are now ready for a weekend of dancing to jazz.

"Swing into Spring is a major fundraiser for our jazz bands, providing funds for all these trips," said Band Booster Sharon DeGraffenreid, whose son's Tucker is in Jazz II. "The proceeds are also used for the purchase of equipment and scholarships for our band students," DeGraffenreid added.

She promises jazz fans delectable desserts and the chance to show off their swing dancing skills. "Or just watch, which is fun, too."

Most importantly, she said, Swing into Spring is a showcase for all the talented musicians at Arlington High School and a very special evening of great music for jazz aficionados and novices alike.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $14 at two downtown Arlington locations, at Flowers By George at 335 N. Olympic Avenue and at Arlington Copy, Mail and More, next to Arlington Pharmacy, at 526 N. West Ave.

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