GW Graham jazz band earns top honours

Junior jazz group impresses judges at Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho

The GW Graham Junior Jazz Band won their division at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho in February.

The GW Graham Junior Jazz Band won their division at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho in February.

Students in the GW Graham music program can take spring break as a well-deserved holiday, after a long successful journey to a high-level jazz festival.

Forty-four students from the school’s music department traveled to the University of Idaho at the end of February to take part in the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. The festival is a four-day, music-packed event featuring high school competitions, adjudications and musical performances from the top names in jazz.

Graham’s VOX group, Treble Makers, the Senior Jazz Band and the Junior Jazz Band all performed, sharing the venue with Grace Kelly, Wycliffe Gordon, Dianne Reeves, and even Chilliwack grad Bria Skonberg. All performed very well, said music teacher Shane Monkman. And in the end, the Junior Jazz Band won their division. In doing that, the group earned an invitation back to the stage to perform at the festival’s final concert on Saturday night.

It was an incredible win, followed by an unforgettable evening.

“The level of playing and competition is high,” Monkman said, with the junior jazz group attending the festival in the younger age bracket for their division.

When we finished our performance on the big stage Saturday night, John Clayton (world renowned bass player and artistic director of the festival) was there to greet the students as the left the stage and thank them for their performance,” he added. “That was very cool.”

For that performance, they played Bari Bari Good. Their portion of that concert is available on Youtube.

It was a band trip full of highlights, Monkman said. The group made a point of traveling to Idaho early to catch hometown success Skonberg on Thursday night.

“She was awesome,” Monkman said. “She had Grace Kelly and Jeff Coffin (both saxophonists) playing with her. By the end the kids we dancing on the dance floor, having a great time.”

And on Saturday night, they had a chance to watch the Lionel Hampton Big Band play.

“It was an amazing experience for the students to get to see a professional big band, playing at the highest level,” he said. “The kids were blown away.”

The kids all worked hard to get there, practicing twice a week in the mornings before school. About 75 per cent of the group is in Grade 8, he said, and in their first year of Junior Jazz Band.

“They are constantly meeting the challenges of the music presented to them and rising to the next level,” Monkman said. “It was awesome to see them get recognized for all their hard work.”

Overall, the trip has likely made an indelible mark on the hearts of Chilliwack’s up and coming musicians.

“The benefits are huge,” Monkman said. “Not only do they bond as friends and musicians (we literally spend every minute of all four days together) but they get to see what they can achieve if they continue to work hard. To see Bria, a trumpet player who played at Chilliwack Middle School, played at Chilliwack Senior and now tours across the USA, the kids start to realize they could do it, that could be them one day. It’s inspirational.”

They’ll hold a Chilliwack Lions Music Festival Honours Concert on their own stage at G.W. Graham on April 14 at 7 p.m., featuring all the gold winning groups from the Lions festival.

To see their performance in Idaho, search for GW Graham Jr. Jazz Band: Bari, Bari Good on Youtube.