Cleveland High Jazz Band places in festival
by Courtney Warren
Apr 20, 2014 | 2556 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cleveland High School Jazz Band placed second in the high school division at the 34th Alcorn State Jazz Festival recently.

The Wildcats ranked ahead of groups from Grenada, Moss Point and Newton County, which are much larger and with better equipment and more funding.

Clay Fuller, band director, decided to create a jazz band at CHS to give students the opportunity to explore other music such as Latin, rock, pop, and soul.

"Other bands don't touch on those styles," explained Fuller.

Junior Keveon Taylor and sophomore Kylan Ellison said the competition was a great experience.

The CHS Jazz Band performed first in the competition and both Taylor and Ellison said this matters due to the fact that performers never know what the judges are expecting.

"They'll be looking at you with fresh eyes and haven’t seen several bands perform before you so they may pick out every mistake," said Taylor.

Ellison said, "Sometimes it's better to go last because you're still fresh on their minds."

Taylor said there were many great opportunities at the festival including a workshop with Arturo Sandoval, an award winning trumpet player, the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, 10 Time Grammy award winner, and Emmy Award winner.

"That was great because he gave up tips on technique, practicing, and how to get into the professional music business," said Taylor.

Ellison, the only drummer, said he enjoys jazz band because "you definitely have a wider variety of music to play."

Fuller explained while at the festival, the Wildcats were at a great disadvantage compared to the much larger schools they competed against.

The Wildcats lacked sound equipment and $3,000 worth of other instruments and equipment including Latin percussion.

"This band program is way more disadvantaged than others in the state because of our lack of funding. We competed against bands that have $60-$70,000 budget and we are working with a $15,000 budget," said Fuller.

"We didn't expect to finish ahead of the other schools but we definitely are excited. We've got bragging rights among our band friends," Taylor said with a laugh.

Fuller said he plans to expand the program and implement a junior high school jazz band next year for seventh and eighth grade as well as a second high school jazz band that would serve as a training tool for the more elite jazz band.

The program still lacks a great deal of funding to make all of these dreams possible.

Instruments need to be repaired or replaced, uniforms need to be cleaned, music needs to be purchased, and travel expenses add up quickly.

The band members are currently selling chicken plates for $7 and Fuller said he has about 1,000 tickets left.

To purchase a ticket see any CHS band member or Fuller.