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Cheltenham Jazz Festival On Tap Saturday, March 12

Posted On Mar 04 2011
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Guest tenor man Larry McKenna (left) and former CHS student-musician and Michael Brecker Scholarship winner Dawn Hayward with the CHS Jazz Band

The much anticipated Second Annual Cheltenham Jazz Festival kicks off this Saturday, March 12 with ten of the area’s top high school jazz bands featuring more than 300 performers.

Hosted by the Cheltenham Township School District, the sponsors are hoping for a huge crowd of parents and community members in attendance at Cheltenham High School’s Stretton Hall after last year’s spectacular performance by bands from Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia County high schools. The music gets underway at 5 p.m. .

Cheltenham High’s Studio Jazz Band School is the reigning Liberty Division champion of the Cavalcade of Bands jazz circuit. The band, an advanced, audition-based ensemble that studies and performs an array of styles and compositions, has been recognized with top-range festival honors over the last few years. Cheltenham also boasts its Lab Jazz Band, which is an intermediate ensemble that provides a venue for developing high school jazz musicians to build their skills and learn the nuances of the various parts of the jazz idiom.

In addition to the traditional high school big band format, the members of the jazz bands also perform in small combos where they develop improvisational skills and learn a variety of jazz standards.

Music and Performing Arts Coordinator Glenn Cowen explains that while the school district continues to promote quality education through the arts, its programs need additional support. This year he and his band are gearing up for a great festival turnout that will also translate into financial support that can help sustain their award-winning program.

“I don’t think people realize how talented and polished good high school jazz bands really are . . . When people come out, it proves the point. If we push them, the things these young people are able to achieve musically are remarkable.”

Over the last three years, the jazz band has raised over $3,500 for bone marrow research and scholarships in tribute to the late great tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker (CHS ’67), through an annual benefit concert. These concerts have featured great Philadelphia area guest artists such as Michael Pedicin Jr., Larry McKenna, and Dave Posmontier performing with the CHS Jazz Band.

Cheltenham Band Parent Association President Joanne Woodson is a major force behind the scenes of such success. “It’s just a joy. We do it for the kids. They work so hard and those championships are evidence of the result. It’s just a privilege to be there for them, supporting them any way we can,” she says.

Don’t miss the Second Annual Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Contact Glenn Cowen about sponsorship opportunities, 215-517-3743 or gcowen@cheltenham.org.

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