The Thomson High School Jazz Band is one of the finest examples of jazz education going on in Georgia.
At a time when music education and the arts are receiving less time and funding, the Thomson Jazz Band meets as a class during the school day.There just aren't many schools where jazz band is given class time during the school day, and certainly even fewer schools that have a group as fine as the Thomson High School Jazz Band.
My experience with the kids was, unfortunately for me, a very brief meeting.I had previously scheduled teaching and performing commitments prior to the concert date and (THS Director of Bands Jessie) Morlan and I couldn't work out a suitable time for me to work with the students before a short rehearsal prior to the Thursday night concert.I was immediately impressed by the attitude and work ethic of the students: With little exception, they were on time to the warm-up rehearsal and very responsive to Mr. Morlan's comments as they began quick touch-up work on all their music.
In a 30 minute period, the band not only rehearsed some of their music with me, but also spent time working with a swing choir who sang on a couple of selections.I don't know many professional groups that could work as efficiently as these students worked.
And then, there was the performance. Wow!These kids really knew how to swing!It felt like I was playing a jazz band performance with professionals. I thought I was probably the least prepared person on stage when I compared my playing with theirs.I stood amidst the trombone section and was awed by the attention to small musical details that the students were displaying. Mr. Morlan must have some high standards, é─˛cause those kids were dotting all their "I's" and crossing all their "T's" as they played.
There are two special alumni from the Thomson Jazz Program that are pursuing jazz degrees in college: Stantwan Kendrick at William Paterson in New Jersey and Chris Crenshaw at Julliard in New York City.After hearing the current edition of the THS Jazz Band, I know we'll be seeing and hearing some future jazz stars from this group of kids.
It was a pleasure and an honor to be able to perform with the THS Jazz Band on their Jazz Night concert.Bravo, Mr. Morlan and jazz band students.You should be proud of the jazz tradition you are continuing at Thomson High School.
Editor's Note: Riverside Middle School Band Director Steve Pruitt recently served as guest conductor for a Thomson High School Jazz Band performance.