Jazz musicians find niche in Music Collective

by Chris Bell

The quote by the novelist Françoise Sagan, “Jazz is an intensified feeling of nonchalance,” is the only way to describe the atmosphere surrounding the school’s Jazz Band, now renamed the Music Collective. The ambiance at the Music Collective is relaxed, but behind the scenes the musicians put in hours of practice and preparation.

The Music Collective consists of a small group of students who play music centered around jazz roots. The class meets four times a week during A-block, and students complete various assignments daily. Music teacher Carolyn Castellano, who is currently rebranding the group, wanted to give the band a new name to reflect its focus.

“We’ve changed the name a little bit from Jazz Band to the Music Collective because we don’t typically play straight ahead music all the time,” Castellano said. “We do our own arrangements and write music.”

Junior Tristan Geary said that the class has taught him how to appreciate jazz music more.

“Everything we do may not be strictly jazz that we’re playing, but it was called Jazz Band because the fundamentals of it are jazz,” Geary said.

Photo by Ashley Lee Music Collective members discuss one of the pieces during class. Together the musicians noted how the last piece went.
Photo by Ashley Lee
Music Collective members discuss one of the pieces during class. Together the musicians noted how the last piece went.

Geary said his passion for music has grown while playing with the Music Collective, and that he, along with other members of the group, has put a lot of effort into the music.

“In school every A-block I try to get an hour of practice,” Geary said. “It’s kind of something I’m always thinking about. It’s probably made me a lot more reserved because I spend a lot of my time practicing now.”

According to Castellano, the group’s music depends on what students want to play, but it is generally centered around jazz music.

“It’s really whatever contemporary influences students have that they bring to the classroom,” Castellano said. “We kind of mix and match and try to make our own sound depending on what instrumentation and stuff we have.”

Castellano said that the students are graded every day and must be on time. They also must listen, record themselves playing and practice playing solo.

“You have to be in the class participating, you have to be ready, you have to have your music,” Castellano said.

For Castellano, the commitment to playing is less about showing her they are there for her class and more about being there for the group as a whole.

“I think what I try to get is that being reliable and being here for the ensemble is more important than the time commitment is to me,” Castellano said. “If you sign up for this class then you have a responsibility to be here for the ensemble.”

Junior James Monaco agreed that the success of the band depends on the group dynamic, and said that their best performances come with a relaxed environment.

“You can’t have an ensemble thats stressed out and also sounds good,” Monaco said. “When you’re playing music you have to be able to gel with your ensemble in order to play well.”

For Geary, while being in the group can be very fun, the tone can switch to seriousness easily. Because everyone is passionate about the music, conflicts can arise. But conflict is not always a bad thing for the group, Geary said.

“You get a lot of joking around which is great, but when somebody really wants to get down to it and do the work, then everybody’s in on it,” Geary said. “It can get quite heated a lot of the time. Arguments break out, which is normal. And that actually builds to a tighter band.”

Castellano said the skill set required to participate in the group is quite high, but the cohesion of the group and the potential of a certain musician are important priorities.

“This is not a music conservatory room,” Castellano said. “I’m not into people who are just amazing, those people are going to be fine in life. I’m into a group that’s going to work together and have a good mix of people. This year I took a lot of people that really aren’t at the skill set yet, because I saw the potential in them to reach that.”

Chris Bell can be contacted at [email protected]