The Berklee College of Music hosted its 49th Annual High School Jazz Festival February 11, 2017 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Northwest Catholic in West Hartford was among the 200 high schools competing at this esteemed festival and came home with four rockstar awards.
The high school instrumental and vocal jazz outfits hailing from 15 states battled in three categories: large, combo, and vocal ensembles. Within each category were divisions based on school size. More than 5,000 guests attended the festival, and a panel of Berklee’s top faculty judged each performance. The festival also included performances by Berklee faculty, tours of Berklee’s campus, and jam sessions.
This year Northwest Catholic High School’s Big Band won 1st Place in its large ensemble division. Directed by Daniel Luddy, this 18 piece big band wowed the judges with its renditions of “Such Sweet Thunder,” “Closely Dancing,” and “Coconut Champagne.” Soloists included Sarah Jessen ’17 (trumpet), Katharine Jessen ’17 (baritone saxophone), Marcos Garcia ’18 (trombone), and Carter Horton ’18 (percussion).
Luddy remarked, “The band’s chemistry really came together on Saturday. The students definitely earned their awards. They have worked hard, and not just for a little while. They have been working for years, some of them playing together for more than four years.”
NWC’s Jazz Singers won 5th Place in its Vocal Jazz Ensemble division, an impressive showing where only 12 ensembles were ranked. The Jazz Singers crooned a samba tune “No More Blues,” a Sinatra-like arrangement of “Come Fly with Me,” and “Days of Wine and Roses” by Henry Mancini.
Jazz Singers director Daniel Avery said, “There’s great camaraderie in this group. They look our for one another and they hold one another accountable. Still, there’s no substitute for talent. They are the most talented singers in the school.”
Northwest Catholic celebrated individual successes as well at the event, as Sarah Jessen, a NWC senior trumpet player, won the Outstanding Musicianship Award in the Class L5 category, and Emily Driscoll, a senior vocal star at the school, won the Judges’ Award for Jazz Choir in her division.
Both ensembles represented Northwest Catholic proudly at this annual event, the largest of its kind in the United States. Top-ranked ensembles are awarded partial scholarships to Berklee’s Five Week Summer Performance Program, and individual students are invited to audition for tuition scholarships towards the full-time program or Berklee’s Five Week Summer Performance Program.
Northwest Catholic High School’s Big Band won 1st Place in the large ensemble division at the 49th Annual High School Jazz Festival at the Berklee College of Music.
Northwest Catholic’s Jazz Singers won 5th Place in its Vocal Jazz Ensemble division.
Sarah Jessen of Colebrook, a NWC senior trumpeter, won the Outstanding Musicianship Award.jpg
NWC choral director Daniel Avery stands with Emily Driscoll of Avon, who won the Judges’ Award for Jazz Choir.