Music Collective performs at Berklee High School Jazz Festival

Evan Marohn, Staff Writer

From performing at a laid back concert in the band room to playing in front of judges alongside bands from as far away as Florida and Denmark, the high school’s Music Collective, also known as the high school’s jazz band, has a wide variety of opportunities to showcase their music. The Berklee College of Music’s High School Jazz Festival, which attracts dozens of high school jazz bands annually, was one of those opportunities. Taking place at Hynes Convention Center on Feb. 6, 2016, the Music Collective participated in the festival for their 17th year running.

Although the festival’s prestige and sheer size make it one of the Music Collective’s most important performances of the year, the group chooses to use it as an opportunity to take risks and enjoy the music of their fellow jazz artists.

According to Music Collective director Carolyn Castellano, the band has been participating in the festival for 17 years with both their large and small ensembles but was limited this year to the small ensemble made up of six students: Seniors Zach Altshuler, Shane Dähler, Tristan Geary, James Monaco, Hal Triedman and sophomore Jason Altshuler.

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Members of the Music Collective, a sub-group of the high school jazz band, play at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival. EVAN MAROHN / SAGAMORE STAFF

The small ensemble placed eighth out of 15 bands in their class.

Senior James Monaco, who plays electric bass in the ensemble, said that their ranking was somewhat disappointing.

“We placed eighth place out of all of the ensembles. Last year we got fourth,” he said.  “We expected better from our results, but we were happy with the way we played. I think we played our best, and I think there might have been, in the judges’ eyes, an emphasis on showmanship as well as musicianship, and we weren’t the most dressed up. I think we should have placed maybe a little higher, but the other ensembles did dress up a little more, so that may have been a reason they got higher than us.”

Castellano also said that the results were not quite what the band expected coming in.

“I don’t know why they didn’t score some of the stuff higher,” she said. “We do a more modern repertoire. We take more of a risk in what we perform. I almost wish it was graded on degree of difficulty. The music that we play is definitely more challenging, so maybe that’s not what they wanted to hear. We were highly disappointed.”

According to senior Zach Altshuler, who plays alto saxophone in the Music Collective’s small ensemble, the competition of the festival had little effect on the group, as they focused more on enjoying the moment.

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The Music Collective placed eighth in the competition. EVAN MAROHN / SAGAMORE STAFF

“Every year we love to show what we’ve been able to do at the Berklee Jazz Festival. We don’t do traditional jazz band repertoire. We like to change it up, do a lot of self-arranged stuff, so it’s really fun,” Altshuler said. “We don’t really care much about winning. It’s more about having a nice opportunity to play our stuff for judges and get really good feedback.”

Castellano, herself an alumna of Berklee, also said that despite the disappointing results, the competition aspect of the performance is not the main focus for the Collective.

“I’m not a big competition person. I don’t really think that music is a competition, but it’s fun to do this festival,” she said. “I think it’s one of the best high school jazz festivals in the country.”

Altshuler said that the festival is a good opportunity for the Collective to listen to jazz bands from other schools and expand their horizons as a group.

“There are groups that you’ll hear from across the hall, and you just can’t help but stand in awe of how good they sound,” Altshuler said. “And that’s the really cool part about it. That’s what makes the Berklee High School Jazz Festival so important for us, is that not only do we get to play our own stuff, but we get to hear other groups and what they’re doing and how they’re sort of changing what it means to be a high school jazz band in the same way we are.”