It was a sunny winter Saturday morning as family, friends and shoppers enjoyed performances by the Hall Middle School jazz bands. Jeff Derby, the jazz and band director at , created these jazz bands which has inspired many of the middle schoolers to play an instrument and appreciate music.
Derby told me, “My background is in jazz…We don’t have the schedule to include them in the day, so I’ve given up my lunch in order to give them an opportunity to play jazz…we have a regular band too, but the kids gravitate towards jazz more because it gives them the freedom to improvise and solo…and that’s fun.”
Jack, 12 and in 7th grade, plays the alto saxophone and has been part of the jazz bands for 3 years. He told me, “In 4th grade, my teacher played jazz all the time, since he played drums…and he would play the famous jazz player named John Coltrane…he played saxophone and that inspired me to play saxophone…”
When I asked him how often they practice together and why he likes being in the band, Jack shared, “We do it every Monday and Wednesday for about an hour and 25 minutes during lunch… It’s fun playing all the tunes…”
When I asked Derby what he loved about working with kids, he told me, “For me as a teacher, the best part is seeing when the kids really have the passion…that moment where they finally get it…they put the work in and all the hours of practice and then they finally get it…it’s very rewarding to hear them improve and enjoy what we’re doing…”
This is the second year, Cale, 11 and in 6th grade, has been in the beginning jazz band. He plays the alto saxophone because, “I was truly inspired when one of Mr. Derby’s bands came over…I liked the smooth sound that came out when you switched in between keys…” He told me, “The best part about being in the jazz band is going out playing with Mr. Derby and getting to have this great experience.”
As the young band members’ white shirts glowed in the sunlight, they each seemed to enjoy their moment in the sun as they stood to perform their solos. Applause was heard after each solo and everyone could feel the sense of accomplishment and joy these students felt as they performed for an extremely supportive community audience.
Until next Wednesday, remember, it’s all “for the love of kids…”
In joy, Marilyn