Jazz bands' trip plans cost about $1,400 per student
CHAMPAIGN — Champaign Central's jazz bands don't need "To Take the 'A' Train." But they do need to raise money for two upcoming trips.
The high school's jazz bands will attend a selective competition in Savannah this spring, and its jazz ensemble will also compete in the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival in New York City in May.
It's an honor for the bands to be selected, said director John Currey, especially to have two bands attending the Swing Central Jazz High School Jazz Band Competition and Workshop in Savannah.
The festivals will allow students to work directly with jazz professionals and learn more about music. But it will cost $400 per student to attend the Savannah festival, and about $1,000 a student to attend the one in New York.
And that's before food.
So as the jazz bands prepare themselves musically, the Central Band Boosters are fundraising to pay for the trips.
Band booster Amy Campbell said raising money can be a challenge, especially with the jazz ensemble going to two festivals this spring.
"The kids are very excited, but it does take some work," she said.
The boosters and band members have sold candy, organized events and are now hoping that community members who love jazz might be interested in supporting Central's bands, even if they're "giving just a little bit," she said.
Central's jazz bands also play around town and will host Jazzfest at Central on April 27 and 28, where they and others from around the community will play.
Campbell's daughter, Kristen, a junior, plays trumpet, and went when the jazz ensemble attended the festival and competition in Savannah last year.
Amy Campbell said the festival was a good experience for her daughter and featured jazz professionals who worked with the students.
"The contest had all kinds of schools from all over the country," Campbell said. "Some of them were art schools, even. Here we are in Champaign, and Central is a modest economic school. They're competing against the best of the best."
Campbell said her daughter got her start on the trumpet at Champaign's South Side Elementary and participated in jazz band at Edison Middle School.
"These kids have quite a few years of experience, for the most part, before they even get to Central," Campbell said, adding that her daughter enjoyed jazz and music more as she got older. "The more things she participates in, the more she loves it."
Currey said Central's jazz ensemble went to the Savannah festival last year, where they saw Dillard High School, a performing arts magnet school from Florida.
"They were outrageous," Currey said, and his students wanted to know how they could be more like that band.
It was a good motivator, Currey said, which he believes helped them get accepted to the Essentially Ellington festival.
That festival is especially cool, because the jazz ensemble will be announced to a cheering crowd, and will have a chance to have dinner and a jam session in a room with towering windows overlooking Central Park. At an earlier festival, he once was seated for dinner with the Ellington family.
And it's a special honor to have two bands selected to play in Savannah, he said.
Although not every jazz band in the country tries to get into these festivals, Currey said, those that are selected are some of the best.
"We tried for years before we got in" to the Essentially Ellington festival. Currey took bands in 2005 and 2008.
Currey prepares his bands by having them play a lot of different music, having them get together in combos for improvisation and, of course, "a good middle school program helps," he said.
Jazz at Central is extracurricular, with the jazz ensemble meeting Monday, Wednesday and Friday before school, and the program's state and lab bands practicing Tuesday and Thursday before school.
If you are interested in helping support Central's jazz bands as they prepare to attend two festivals this spring, send donations care of the band boosters to Central High School, 610 W. University Ave., Champaign, IL 61820.
Or you can donate via PayPal on http://www.maroons.org.