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Professional workshops prepare AHS bands for competition

Members of the AHS jazz band rehearse for the Central Coast Jazz Festival. Photo by Morgan Orgeron.

The AHS bands have performed in concerts around the county and have participated in unique educational opportunities recently, which have prepared them for their spring competitions.

Band students were able to learn from local professional musicians to improve their skills. The coaching sessions took place once a month during Study Hall and were funded by the AHS Band Boosters. Students were able to practice with professional musicians who specialize in their specific instruments. These lessons gave students specific knowledge and one-on-one practice that is not always available during full ensemble rehearsals and is certainly a rare experience for high school students. “The goal was to try to provide some professional feedback and real-life musician experience for each of the musicians here at AHS,” said AHS band director Mr. Conrad.

The professionals who helped with the coaching sessions were Emily Lanzone (associate concertmaster of the SLO Symphony), Dr. Mark Miller (freelance trombonist and teacher), Warren Balfour (professor emeritus of Cuesta College and director of the Trumpet Alliance), Sean Sullivan (freelance percussionist, SLO Symphony Orchestra, and teacher), Dave Becker (professor of music and freelance saxophonist), Suzanne Duffy (principle flute and teacher for Opera SLO), Kevin McDonald (freelance musician and teacher).

On Mar. 1 the AHS Jazz Band and the “A” Jazz Combo participated in the North County Jazz Workshop in the Paso Robles High School auditorium. AHS musicians worked with the Chord Four, an ensemble of professional jazz composers. The students worked on advanced questions about their individual job in the ensemble and what they are trying to portray to their audience with each piece. Senior Jonathan Yeager had the honor of having his original composition "Between Then and Now" performed by Chord Four. “It was an enlightening and inspiring experience,” said Conrad about the workshop.

The AHS Concert, String, and Jazz bands performed at the AUSD All District Concert on Mar. 6 at the Atascadero Middle School. Also featured in the concert were the elementary schools’ combined band and the middle school’s band. The event is an opportunity for younger musicians to see what being a high school musician at AHS is all about, and to inspire them to continue their music studies.

The Jazz Band also participated in the 36th Central Coast Jazz Festival at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo on Mar. 8. Their “A” Jazz Combo won second place overall with a set featuring original compositions by seniors Yeager and Fletcher Ferrara.

On Mar. 15 the AHS Strings and Concert Band performed at the Fresno Pacific University Invitational Festival. They were two of four ensembles invited from across Central California. AHS and the other high school groups all had a turn to perform and then listen to the Fresno Pacific University Wind Ensemble.

The music program at Atascadero High has had a busy Winter season, and Mr. Conrad continues to use his professional connections to the local music scene to provide his students with rare and valuable opportunities to become the best musicians they can be and proudly represent their high school.

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