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Hampden academy students get jazzed up

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Anne Gabbianelli O'Reilly For the WEEKLY, Special to the BDN

Hampden academy students get jazzed up

More than 3,000 high school students gathered at Berklee College of Music in Boston the last weekend of January, and 24 Hampden Academy jazz students were among them for the 41st annual High School Jazz Festival.

“It’s really inspiring and we get a better appreciation for what we do as a group with music,” said Ada Ginn, a senior who first attended the festival when she was a freshman.

Hampden Academy’s Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Consort both competed in their class, receiving personal comments and tips from judges that ranged from “gaining confidence” to “nice, tight and subtle.”

Hampden Academy Band Director Ben Aldridge said, “I knew it would be challenging for the students, but the real purpose of the trip was to inspire them to come to a new level and hear what’s possible.”

Senior Sarah Flagg, who last attended the festival in 2005, saw something new that she didn’t acknowledge her first trip to Berklee.

“To see other schools perform shows the mind set that jazz is their life, and it’s inspirational to see the level that can be achieved,” she said.

Reaching new levels and making sacrifices to make it happen is how Andy Laidman looks at this competitive festival.

The director of the academy’s Jazz Consort, and a Berklee grad himself, said, “The Consort has the right number of people — seven — the right skill and the right motivation; we finally made it to Berklee.”

The judges noted the skills of the rhythm sections by presenting The Judges’ Choice Award to Gabe Yammartino, bass player in the Jazz Consort; and Bethany Leavitt, drummer in the Jazz Ensemble.

“In middle school I was bummed that I never got an award, and then when I never expected, I got an award,” said Leavitt, wearing a proud smile.

After performing and attending clinics ranging from improvisation and arrangements to drumming and bringing funk to a new level, Hampden Academy students now will be treated to working with local musicians who will conduct workshops.

Aldridge said that workshops and trips such as those to Berklee “bring the students together to respect each other more with their musical ability and talent.”

Hampden Academy was one of 17 Maine schools attending the festival, including Brewer and Old Town high schools.

Hampden Academy Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Consort students who participated at Berklee are: drummers Bethany Leavitt and Jake Armstrong; bass player Ryan Armstrong; keyboard players Eliza Nealley and Tessa Wood; trumpet players Ada Ginn, Sarah Flagg, Alyssa Duron, Nicholas Hahn-Miller and Donovan O’Reilly; trombone player Graham Chase, bass player Gabe Yammartino; clarinet player Amy Cirrinone; saxophone player Katie Cyr; keyboard player Christin Casavant; trombone players Derek Willette, Rachel Prescott and Sarah Coston; saxophone players Ethan Burke, Coplin Fickett, Michael Jenkins, Michael Brodek, Gabe Burditt and Lucy Mardosa.

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