MBSS Jazz hosts concert ahead of major festival trip

The Jazz musicians and singers of Mt. Baker Secondary School are gearing up for an historic sojourn at one of the most prestigious Jazz festivals in the the U.S., only a couple of weeks away.

To help pave the way there, MBSS music department is hosting a gala concert this Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Key City Theatre, ahead of attending the 50th anniversary of the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Feb. 23, 24, and 25.

The Mount Baker Vocal Jazz ensemble and Jazz band — about 40 students in all — will be attending.

“It’s one of the most prestigious American festivals on their calendar anywhere in the country,” said MBSS Music Director Evan Bueckert. “It’s open to high schools, colleges, university groups and middle schools as well, specifically focussing on pop and jazz group performances. It’s really great to be able to go.”

Indeed, Bueckert has been trying to get the Baker ensembles into this particular festival for years.

“All the directors would book themselves in for the next year as they were leaving, because it’s so popular,” he said. “It made it impossible for anyone new to get a spot. But [festival organizers] realized they weren’t getting as much turnover as they’d like — there was always a huge waiting list. So they wiped everybody’s slate clean this year for their 50th and let everyone try again from scratch and I got my foot in the door.”

The festival is three days long, featuring a ‘show day’ of opening ceremonies and concerts, but then it’s a full day of vocal jazz and then a second day of instrumental jazz.

“It goes all through the clock,” Bueckert said. “I lost count after 80 bands.”

Most bands are from the schools in the U.S., with about a dozen from Canada

“You perform for a panel of judges and adjudicators,” Bueckert said. “We do our set, and we get whisked away to a workshop with the judges, and a clinic. And it’s all designed to be constructive. And then we are graded and ranked. It’s completely competitive.

“And it’s going to be a different thing for us, because in Canada you don’t really see that very much, to be ranked in order.

“It’s ranked like they do their sports teams — AA, AAA; the size of your school dictates what group you are in. And then the best groups are told they’ll be performing in the evening concert that night.”

On Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Key City Theatre, the Vocal Jazz group and Jazz band will be performing a gala concert, showcasing their set and their chops.

“It will raise some funds for it, and make the community aware of this wonderful thing we’re going to do, and also let the students shake down their set list a little bit for a live audience, after so much practicing,” Bueckert said. “It will be fun to show it to an audience, and see how it flies.”

Admission to the concert on Thursday is $25 per adult and $12 for seniors and students. The event is catered by the HeidOut. The musicians and singers will be playing their set list, plus a few extra surprises. After the concert in the theatre itself, events will move to the lobby for the reception, with further music provided by the students.

Showtime is 7:30 pm. Thursday, Feb. 15. All proceeds from the concert go towards attendance at the 50th Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho.

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