Cheers & Kudos: Students able to showcase musical talents thanks to community

On Jan. 27, the Mile High-Carson High Jazz Extravaganza XII performed at the Carson City Community Center, and for the second year in a row, the Royal Blue Jazz Band of Carson Middle School participated in this fundraiser for the Carson High and Carson Middle School band and orchestra programs.

For those two hours, you get to see a new generation of student musicians performing with high-caliber, experienced musicians. These kids, from preteen and up, are being rewarded with the opportunity to showcase their efforts, and everyone there can experience how much their musical educations matter, and how the community can continue to drive them forward. Some of the jazz pieces show advanced, mature skills for such young musicians. Rather than just providing a venue or a time slated for children to perform, the Jazz Extravaganza showcases exceptional talent. The entire music community is essentially harnessed to get our future musicians pushed forward to the next level.

Although the combined benefit has been around for over 12 years for the benefit of Carson High School, from 2013 until 2015, for two years, CMS has been able to participate. Due to the decision by Ellie and David Bugli as well as Bill Zabelsky, faculty of Carson High School, Carson Middle School now has two years behind its belt of joining in. Not only is it a fundraising exercise, but it’s really a night of music and jazz, where the ability and talents of the directors of these two incredible bands essentially take on compositions and music well over their expectations of a High School and Middle School student concert.

Nick Jacques of Carson Middle School Jazz Band selected, among others, “All Blues” by Miles Davis, “Go Tell It on the Mountain”, arranged for jazz and a Latin jazz piece, written by Dizzy Gillespie. Bill Zabelsky of Carson High School selected for his group exciting pieces with solos of many of his students, including “Blue Train” by John Coltrane. The evening rounded off with Mile High Jazz Band, and following, a grand finale of all the bands on stage, about 60 musicians total, grouping for “Blues in Hoss’ Flat,” featuring solos from the pros and the students alike. You get the impression, when you see all the players working together, that the music community is positively and successfully investing their time and efforts with the kids to really show what we can accomplish as a group.

It is astonishing to see middle school students playing some pretty hard selections, which they had only had been practicing for three weeks. I asked Nick Jacques how he selected the right songs for the kids, and he stated he looks at the band’s individual members, and picks something that challenges them, pushes them forward, and also fits their special abilities. The selection must be fun, educational, not too easy or hard, and not too long. The kids know what good music sounds like, because they listen to a lot of songs and performances in their jazz band class. The additional part of CMS’s Jazz Band program is that it is an extracurricular activity, meeting before school starts, so the children are volunteering their time. Jacques is also to be taking the Royal Jazz Band to competition this year for the Reno Jazz Festival in April.

In addition, some excellent opportunities for the students have been around for about two academic years now. This year, a Jazz Workshop was held at Carson Middle School this weekend, by a grant from the Nevada Arts Council written by David and Ellie Bugli. Three professional musicians offered workshops last Saturday, January 24th, at Carson Middle School to about 21 students, and received personal, hands on practice in scales and chords, improvisation, and rhythm.

We owe a lot in the community to these kids, their parents, and the talent of these amazing band directors, as well as a huge thanks to the Mile High Jazz Band.

Kelly Anne Figueroa

Carson City


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