Brandon Jazz Fest 2013

The BU Jazz Ensemble I on-stage at the WMCA. (Sarra Dziver)

Lately, the Queen Elizabeth II Building has been teeming with high-schoolers and the sweet and crazy sounds of jazz.  From March 14th – 16th, Brandon University’s School of Music hosted the 31st Annual Brandon Jazz Festival, an event featuring young jazz ensembles from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the surrounding area.  Over 70 small ensembles from various high schools played at the event, attending clinics and professional concerts.   Excellent adjudicators are brought in each year to provide feedback to student ensembles.  Ensembles range from small jazz groups to vocal groups to everything in between.  Among the many highlights were multiple performances from BU’s own Gigäntic Band and the Brandon University Jazz ensemble, which featured special guest musician and composer Peter Apfelbaum.

“I’m excited for our performance, but our songs are hard, so I’m also nervous,” says April, a ninth-grade alto- saxophonist from West Kildonan Collegiate.  Her ensemble has twenty members.  “We’re going to watch other groups play.  Our teacher wants us to learn how other people work, and to learn technique.”  When asked what sets this genre apart from the rest, she replies, “I like Jazz because you can really express what you feel.”

The event is largely run with the aid of volunteers, many of whom are BU music students.

“I’m volunteering with the equipment crews, getting stands and setting them up in the different venues,” says Natalie Pegus, a second-year music student who performs in two jazz ensembles herself.  “I went to Jazz Fest in high school for three years, before coming to the School of Music.  It was a really positive opportunity.”

Paul Madryga is a faculty sessional guitar teacher at the School of Music, out to enjoy the festival.  “It’s a great event, a bit crazy, but it’s a lot of fun.”

“We can show off our school, we like to do that; we’re musicians.”

In the past, Madryga related his recording duties and session instruction roles for past Jazz festivals.  “The concerts are gangbusters, they’re always great.”

When asked what’s great about the Festival, Madryga responded, “Being around lots of inspired young people.  We tend to forget: we don’t make music for ourselves.  There’s a whole younger generation coming up.  It’s a nurturing process.  Definitely, [this Festival] is a recruiting vehicle [for the School of Music].”

Many directors are BU alumni.  Former School of Music student Chris Darazisi graduated in ’92 and has been teaching band at Ecole Region Park for over ten years.  “It’s nice to be back,” he says.  When asked if the festival has changed any since he was involved, he remarks “It seems to me it’s gotten bigger.”  His jazz ensemble, which participated in the Festival, is comprised of 32 seventh- and eighth-graders.  “It’s a very good opportunity; it’s fun.  It’s a really good motivator for the kids to see other kids play.   At this age, it’s about the ‘cool’ factor, the exposure.” When asked what his kids would take away from the festival, he laughed. “Those *****mn kazoos.  They’re selling them dirt cheap… no wonder they’re buying them.”

On a more serious note, he added, “There’s a lot of schools here, lots of cool stuff.  The kids begin to realize they’re part of a bigger world of jazz, not just the team.”

To volunteer next year contact:

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 25, March 19, 2013.