First-place band headed to championships

Sioux Center High School Jazz Band 1 became the first ensemble to qualify for the Iowa Jazz Championship in the school’s history.

SIOUX CENTER—Twenty Sioux Center High School students have made history for the district.

The members of Jazz Band 1 took first place in Class 3A at the Northwest Iowa District Jazz Festival on Monday, Feb. 18, at Le Mars Community High School in Le Mars. The placement makes them one of 60 bands across the state that get to perform at the The Iowa Jazz Championships set for Tuesday, April 2.

“I am so excited to be apart of a team that is making history at our school and going to state,” said senior Ian Else. “As I have gone through high school, I have seen many sports teams make it to state competitions and I am so happy for my school and my friends, but I always had the thought in the back of my mind that it would be cool to be apart of a team that goes to state just like the sports team. Being able to do that with something I love is an amazing feeling. And it being the first time our school has received this honor makes it so more special. I will never forget this time.”

Sophomore trumpeter Ellie Hurst

Sophomore trumpeter Ellie Hurst plays with Sioux Center High School Jazz Band 1 during a performance at Centre Mall on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Sioux Center.

Band director Meghan Powell credits the students’ work ethic for reaching this goal.

“These students put in a tremendous amount of work,” she said. “They begin jazz band practice once marching band ends in the fall, which means two to three days before school for 45 minutes. They also practice at home and have sectionals, which are student led, throughout the week. These kids are dedicated and it shows. We have a lot of good leadership.”

Powell said making it to the Iowa Jazz Championships has been a goal students have been working toward for five years.

“It’s a goal we set each year, and that’s how long I’ve been here,” she said. “Each year the students get better, know the expectations and set their goals.”

That’s a goal set at the middle school level, too, as Powell and middle school band director Monica Boogerd direct four jazz bands total, each directing a middle school and high school group.

Junior saxophonist Casey TeGrotenhuis

Junior saxophonist Casey TeGrotenhuis performs with Sioux Center High School Jazz band 1 at the Centre Mall on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Sioux Center.

“Being involved in Jazz, overall, isn’t about the trophy, it’s about the experience and the impact you have,” Powell said. “There’s creativity in the genre and these students have worked hard to develop and enhance that creativity. They’re excited about what they’re doing and that pushes me, too, as a director because I’m not an expert in jazz myself. it’s all about these kids and their work and it’s nice to have them recognized for that work.”

Powell’s students give her some credit too.

“Ms. Powell has done an amazing job of leading us to this point,” Else said. “She has built this program up to an amazing level from what it was before. And I am so happy and honored that I can be apart of it. I am so proud of all the work that everybody has put into it. Each member of this band has done so much to make us better.”

Senior Braden Jahn, who’s been in jazz band for four years, is proud of everyone in the jazz band “for buying into what we wanted to be.”

“Everyone has worked very hard, and we’ve grown as a jazz band not only musically, but also in our friendships,” he said. “Our director, Miss Powell, deserves a lot of praise, as we couldn’t have done any of this without her. She believed in us and has pushed us to be the best we can be.”

Being part of Jazz Band for two years has been a highlight for Senior Logan Pitsenberger.

“I enjoy jamming out during the performances,” he said. “What I’ve learned from jazz bannd is how pleasureable it can be creating a work of transient art such as music. Jazz is the most versatile and ingenious of music styles, giving the performer the ability to improvise and the listener a unique experience each performance.”

Sophomore trombonist Jenna King

Jenna King, a sophomore trombonist, plays with Sioux Center High School Jazz Band 1 during a performance at Centre Mall on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Sioux Center.

Senior Morgan Slagter has been involved in jazz band for eight years.

“Every single person in this band works hard and wants to achieve the goals we have as a group,” she said. “We get to make incredible music together and have fun doing it.”

The biggest thing she’s learned is that performing is not about individuals.

“We can’t make music without every single person in the band,” she said. “We don’t have a ‘bench’ in jazz band like sports do. We are a team and we need everyone in order to be successful.”

She couldn’t be more excited about going to The Iowa Jazz Championships.

“All of us seniors have worked towards jazz champs for the past four years,” she said. “It’s exciting to see all of our hard work finally pay off. It’s going to be so fun.”

The Iowa Jazz Championships showcases 60 of the state’s finest high school jazz ensembles. It is held in Ames every April and features 15 groups from each of the four Iowa high school classifications. All ensembles perform in the daytime preliminary competition, and the top two bands from each classification perform in the evening finals competition. The event was founded by Iowa jazz educators more than 30 years ago and continues to be an important event on the Iowa high school music landscape each spring.