By Kellie Lambert McGuire
A group of Southington High School musicians recently landed on the winner’s podium at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston, Mass.
The Southington High Jazz Ensemble placed third in the large ensemble category for the second year in a row at the competition earlier this month.
“We’ve been in the top four for five out of the last six years,” said music teacher Jeff Shaw, director of the ensemble.
The Berklee High School Jazz Festival, sponsored by the Berklee College of Music and now in its forty fifth year, has grown from a small New England competition into one that features groups from all over the United States and beyond. More than 200 high school jazz ensembles were watched by more than 5,000 attendees at the March 2 event.
There are 24 student musicians in the local ensemble, which just happens to feature four sets of brothers: Ian and Julian Sherwood, Brett and Will Simms, Nate and Jarod Shurack and, Shaw’s own two sons, Ted and Brett Shaw.
And the group is also mostly male. Only one female student – Rachel Klem – made the cut this year.
Students must audition for the jazz ensemble, which is an extra-curricular activity. The group meets weekly, on Thursday nights, to practice.
Jazz ensemble is a commitment, Shaw said.
“It’s a lot more responsibility,” he said. “The music is more difficult, and you need dedication, since they need to learn the music on their own.”
Every year the group changes, and next year, several students will graduate – including half of the brother pairs.
“We have turnover,” Shaw said. “But it gives other kids the opportunity. And we end up with a different set of strengths each year.”
To hear the Southington High Jazz Ensemble’s performance at this year’s festival, visit festival.berkleejazz.org/festival-winners and find the link under “Large Ensemble, Class L1.”
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