School jazz bands to take the stage

South Whidbey’s Middle and High School Jazz Bands are ready to close the school year with a bang.

South Whidbey’s award-winning Middle School and High School Jazz Bands are ready to close the school year with a bang.

Community members and jazz lovers are invited to attend “Let’s Groove: Jazz Night” at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28 at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, located at 565 Camano Ave. in Langley.

Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at Guests age 18 and younger enter free of charge.

According to Music Teacher and Band Director Chris Harshman, the ensemble, which comprises 20 middle schoolers and 20 high schoolers, will perform contemporary pieces as well as arrangements from the Great American Songbook, many of which were brought to previous events and competitions.

The show will include saxophones, trombones, trumpets, piano, bass, guitar and drums, with improvised solo parts in the arrangements, according to the director.

It’s been a great year for the young musicians, Harshman said. In January, the High School Band performed at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, placing first in the Single A division against 12 other schools.

The band also went to the Bellevue College Jazz Festival in February. While it did not qualify for nationals, the ensemble received an honorable mention, Harshman said.

South Whidbey School District’s music program has a long history of excellence, including earning top honors at a music festival in Idaho and qualifying for a national competition in Georgia in 2020, and performing at other events around the country, including the Monterey Jazz Festival in California and the Essentially Ellington Jazz Festival — which, in Harshman’s words, is “basically the Super Bowl for high school jazz.”

“There’s a whole saying about jazz education in the northwest, in the Seattle area in particular,” he said. “We’re known for playing at a very, very high level regardless of the fact that we’re a really small school.”

All these years, Harshman said, the program’s success has been thanks to the students’ dedication and the support of families and the greater South Whidbey community. Band players in middle school learn by observing the older players, and students are very supportive of each other, he said.

On May 30, the ensemble will perform in Leavenworth, and bid farewell to the seniors at the graduation ceremony on June 8.