TOTM Central Jazz May 1, 2021

Members of Champaign Central’s jazz bands at practice Wednesday morning, where they rehearsed for their first live concert in more than a year, set for Sunday at Colbert Park in Savoy.

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Over the summer, Champaign Central students gathered for a few hours a week in the driveway of band directors John and Jennifer Currey to serenade the neighborhood.

The performances weren’t highly prepared, but it was nice to perform in front of people, something they haven’t been able to do otherwise in over a year.

“We called it ‘Driveway Jazz,’” John Currey said. “A bunch of neighbors would come over sit in our yard or out on the street and watch. It actually brought our neighborhood together. I actually met some people that lived a couple of doors down that I never knew.”

After 14 months, the full Central Jazz band and the New Street Combo will finally be able to hold a live performance when they take over the pavilion at Colbert Park in Savoy from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The performance isn’t the only exciting event for the band. The group was chosen as one of 15 national finalists for the prestigious Essentially Ellington Jazz Festival at Lincoln Center in New York, the sixth time Champaign Central has been chosen. The festival will take place virtually this year, including a rehearsal with a Lincoln Center performer on Friday.

With the virtual festival and Sunday’s concert, the band will finally be able to receive live feedback and applause, something they haven’t heard in over a year.

“It’ll be nice to get some crowd applause and be able to recognize some kids in a way haven’t been able to be recognized in over a year,” John Currey said. “So that’s exciting, the thrill of being able to perform and have somebody hear you, and the possibility of making a mistake, those are all emotions you have when you perform.

“It’ll be exciting.”

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