Jazz program hosts first High School Jazz Festival

Bridget Janis, Staff Reporter

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The Oakland University Jazz program hosted its first annual Oakland University High School Jazz Festival on Saturday, Feb. 2, giving high school jazz members the opportunity to play for OU faculty and be critiqued before they audition for college.

Sean Dobbins, Steve Wood, Mark Kieme, Rayse Biggs, Scott Gwinnell, Marion Hayden and Mark Stone were the music faculty that attended the event and opened the festival by playing a couple of  jazz songs for the audience.

The group that attended the event were from the MSU Community Music School in Detroit. Some schools had to cancel just hours before the event due to snow days this past week.

Since these groups of musicians were smaller, they were known as combos and were from both middle school and high school ages. Combos are based more on melodies and improvisation compared to larger ensembles, which are based on ensemble interactions.

“Small groups allow students to have more opportunity for self expression through improvisation,” Dobbins said.

The reasoning behind this event was to help grow the jazz program and add to Oakland’s community. It also allowed any students and their families to come to OU, meet the staff and ask any questions about the music program.

“It’s a chance for them to get to know us, and of course this expansion of the Oakland Center [OC] is beautiful and it is nice to have wonderful buildings,” Stone said. “But what makes a university a place for students to come to is the faculty, and we have a rich jazz faculty headed by Professor Dobbins, but all the faculty were here, and it’s just a great chance for the students to get to know who we are and what we have to offer the students.”

Students took time to go downstairs in the OC to get ready to perform. They practiced a few notes, went over the music and got in the zone.

“It’s something you can feel, feeling is what music is. It’s not about notes, it’s about what you find in the notes that you can make into music,” said Marvin “Doc” Holladay, the first director of jazz and world music at OU.

To wrap up the event the students performed and were able to be critiqued by special guest Holladay. He gave critiques such as to stay in pocket, play softer and he even demonstrated for them. He also provided positive feedback as a way to motivate the students in years to some.

“It was an unmatched source of education,” Dobbins said. “You cannot get this type of level of experience and knowledge anywhere, and it was important for us for the students to hear from experience. Our music has been handed down not through books and not through written music, it’s been handed down orally, and it’s been handed down through experience.”

The faculty hopes to continue this event for the upcoming year, and hopes it will continue to grow and help get OU’s name get out into the community.