Starting at 7 a.m., Oak Harbor Schools Superintendent Lance Gibbon begins his Wednesdays in a cramped, studio-like room working to help expand students’ “jazz vocabulary.”
“Jazz improv is like learning to speak a language, so you can have a conversation or tell a story to the audience,” said Gibbon.
Gibbon and Jason Schmid, an Oak Harbor Intermediate School science teacher, recently started a new class on improvisational jazz.
Both have sons who are currently in jazz band.
Gibbon said they came up with the idea last year while attending one of their sons’ concerts.
Gibbon, who plays the piano and guitar, was a music teacher before entering administration.
Brandon Nelson, Oak Harbor High School jazz band teacher, was supportive of the idea and willing to lend his first-chair students to the class once a week. The group of eight students spends each Wednesday with Gibbon and Schmid instead of their normal jazz band class, which meets daily from 7-8 a.m.
“It’s been actually pretty fun,” said senior Jordan George, a bassist. “It’s been challenging, and challenge is what I live for.”
Students and Gibbon agree that the smaller group size allows for more individual attention and solo opportunities. Gibbon said he hopes the class will teach the students to step out of their comfort zone and build confidence.
The students haven’t been too intimidated by their superintendent being their teacher either.
“He’s a very friendly superintendent,” said senior Will Frantz, a vibraphone player. “The intimidation went away after a little while. It all feels very comfortable.”
After just three classes, Frantz said he’s learned a lot and appreciated the individual feedback he’s been able to receive.
Gibbon said nearly the whole jazz band expressed interest in the class, so after four weeks another group of eight or nine students will replace the current class.
He said he’s looking forward to seeing how the class goes and to possibly expanding it in the future.
In the meantime, Gibbon said he enjoys the opportunity to step back into the classroom.
“It’s a great way to start every Wednesday morning — hanging out with students and playing jazz.”