Old School Jazz

Andrew Beaudoin, right, rehearses for his performance in Jazzfest 2008. Beaudoin is one of 22 students from Woburn Collegiate Institute who participated in last Friday's concert.

It’s raining on a gloomy Friday morning and you’d expect most high school students to be pulling themselves out of bed, barely awake and unkempt after a night’s sleep.

But 22 musically talented students from Woburn Collegiate Institute are already in school, rehearsing several melodies for this week’s Jazzfest 2008, and perfecting their performances to the very last detail.

“It didn’t take a lot of planning to get it off the ground,” says Brian Farrow, the conductor of Woburn’s jazz band, “but it did take a lot of rehearsing, because this is much more music than we are used to performing,”

Over 100 tickets were already being held for the band’s performance this past Friday night at St. Dunstan of Canterbury Church, on Lawson Road. Jazzfest was the first event of its kind, and Farrow hoped it would inspire many other opportunities for Woburn music students.

He also hoped his students would have fun as well.

“The most enjoyable thing is the energy that the kids bring to play,” Farrow says. “They will make more mistakes perhaps than a big band, but they play with enthusiasm.

“They have a lot of fun playing and that’s evident in just watching them.”

Some of Woburn’s jazz students received a silver award in this year’s Musicfest Canada at York University, and the band recently performed when seven well-known individuals received stars on the Scarborough Walk of Fame in October.

The band took a play list of tunes from as early as the 1920s for a 90-minute presentation at the jazz concert. The first half of the show featured music solely from legendary jazz composer Duke Ellington and his band mates.

Farrow notes many of his students have no formal history in jazz music before stepping into his classroom. He teaches a jazz music course at Woburn that branches out into extracurricular bands, including the jazz combo and senior and junior jazz bands.

Jazzfest allowed audience members to get close to the music in a way that is usually not possible, Farrow says.

The performance also allowed many students to gain musical exposure.

“Everybody is getting their chance to shine, I guess,” says Andrew Beaudoin, a Grade 12 student at Woburn. “Everybody is getting their 16 bars of fame.”

Beaudoin is the only student in the jazz band who has been a member for all four years of high school. While he admits his favourite instrument to play is the flute, he plays a saxophone in the jazz band and is able to perform several solos in Jazzfest as well.

“I think my favourite [piece] would have to be Chunk of Funk because it’s fun to play and fun to listen to, it’s just all around a really great piece,” Beaudoin says.

The money raised by Jazzfest went to preparations for St. Dunstan’s 25th annual celebration and the Woburn Music Foundation, a charitable organization which contributes to new instruments and music.