The Berklee College of Music hosted its 50th Annual High School Jazz Festival on Saturday, February 10, 2018 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Northwest Catholic in West Hartford was among the 200 high schools competing at the festival and came home with the red ribbon for Best Vocal Jazz Performance, with John Sullivan, a senior from Simsbury, winning Outstanding Musician for the NWC Jazz Singers.
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's Jazz Singers won 2nd Place for Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Directed by Daniel Avery, this group of talented singers wowed the judges with its renditions of "Stormy Weather," "Autumn Leaves," "My One And Only Love," and "It Don't Mean A Thing (If it Ain't Got That Swing)."
After learning of the Jazz Singers' award, Avery remarked, "We were congratulated by the adjudicators for our blend and attention to detail. I'm especially proud of these comments because they highlight our students' cohesiveness and dedication as a team of singers." Avery also pointed out that Northwest Catholic's showing in its division is especially impressive because its school size puts it in direct competition with performing arts academies. To come home with 2nd Place after going up against schools solely dedicated to the performing arts is remarkable.
The NWC 21-piece Big Band also competed on Saturday. Although they didn't take home the medal this year, as they have in year's past, they performed exceptionally well. They played an arrangement of "Autumn Leaves," featuring solos by Ally Tessman on vibraphone, Matt Villani on piano, and Michael Stamm on trumpet, along with a ballad for trombone featuring senior Marcos Garcia. They closed their set with a fast swing called "Harlem Congo," which featured solos by Carter Horton on drums, Michael Foster on clarinet, Michael Stamm on trumpet, and Marcos Garcia on trombone.
Director of the Big Band, Daniel Luddy said, "The energy in the performance hall was unmistakable, emanating from the band and intensified by the audience. The room was packed! We've had great leadership from our seniors this year, and we're already looking forward to our next show."
Both ensembles represented Northwest Catholic proudly at the annual event, the largest of its kind in the United States. President Christian Cashman cheered for these special musicians and for the NWC Fine Arts Department as a whole, saying, "The Arts at NWC form the whole person — mind, body, spirit, and imagination. What could be a better example of that then our performers at Berklee? We are very proud indeed."
Northwest Catholic's Jazz Singers won 2nd Place for Best Vocal Jazz Performance at the Berklee College of Music's 50th Annual High School Jazz Festival. John Sullivan of Simsbury won Outstanding Musician for the NWC Jazz Singers at the Berklee Jazz Festival.