MUHS Jazz Ensemble wins at gold at Boston music festival

MIDDLEBURY — As a winter blizzard blanketed Boston with snow this past Saturday the Middlebury Union High School Jazz Ensemble blew into The Hub and played some hot music that earned the band top honors in their class at the largest high school jazz competition in the nation.
“Midd Jazz,” as it is known, won first place in Large Ensemble Class 4 — a category that included 15 schools — in the 49th annual Berklee High School Jazz Festival.
More than 3,000 high school students who comprise more than 200 bands and vocal ensembles compete for $175,000 in scholarships to various Berklee College of Music summer programs.
The Berklee Festival hosted 208 ensembles in three categories — Vocal Jazz, Small Combo and Large Ensemble in sections determined by school population. Schools were primarily from the Northeast, but also came from Puerto Rico, Florida, California and Indiana.
Not only did the MUHS contingent win its class, but Midd Jazz was also the fourth-highest rating among all large ensembles, which encompassed six divisions and approaching a hundred bands.
Midd Jazz Performed three charts: “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane, “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” by Jimmy Van Huesen, and “Cassandra” by Dave Brubeck. Oziah Wales (alto saxophone) was recognized as a “star musician” for our ensemble due to his featured solo on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.” In addition, Wales will be performing in the All Eastern Jazz Ensemble in April in Atlantic City, N.J.
Members of the MUHS Jazz Ensemble who played at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston are Micah Rubin (drums), Michael Huber (bass trombone), Spencer Doran (trumpet), Joel Pyfrom (trumpet), Devon Kearns (trumpet), Nico Brayton (vibes and piano), Julian Schmitt (trumpet), Tobias Broucke (guitar), Ev Pyfrom (trombone), Oziah Wales (alto and soprano saxophone) and Jakub Kraus (tenor saxophone).
And also Josie Abbott (baritone saxophone), Joshua Girard (trumpet), Greta Hardy-Mittell (piano and clarinet), Addy Parsons (trombone and flute), Patrick Messenger (drums), Archie Milligan (trombone), Caleb Benz (alto saxophone), Hunter Munteanu (tenor saxophone) and Simon Kiel (bass).
The MUHS Jazz Ensemble meets as a credited course during the school year for 40 minutes daily. The ensemble is by audition only and students must audition yearly for acceptance into the ensemble.
“Midd Jazz” has placed first in the Vermont Association of Jazz Educators Jazz Festival for the past nine years. The VT Discover Jazz Festival began awarding clinics two years ago to the top ensemble, allowing Midd Jazz to work with bassist Christian McBride and the Marcus Roberts Trio.
Midd Jazz has not attended the Berklee Jazz Festival until this year due to conflicts with winter break. But after deciding not to travel to Georgia for the Marcus Roberts Jazz Festival (they were invited by Roberts after a recent clinic) it was discovered the Berklee festival worked into the school schedule and the jazz ensemble applied.
MUHS Jazz Director Anne Severy is in her 36th year of teaching; the past 31 years have been at Middlebury Union High School. She was awarded the Green Mountain Music District V Teacher of the Year award in 2006 and the UVM Teacher of the Year for Addison Central Supervisory Union in 2015.
Severy said it was very exciting to take part in the completion and to perform so well.
“Guess I shouldn’t have waited till my 36th year of teaching to go,” she said.

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