Jazz Band Showcases School–Wide Talent


Nick Mariconda begins practice with the Jazz Band. | Photo by Madeline Hardy ’11

Constance Chien ’10
Features Editor

Nick Mariconda begins practice with the Jazz Band. | Photo by Madeline Hardy '11

In the four building, Thursday means jazz band.

And jazz band means brass sounds emanating from the band room—the sound of several saxophones out–discording each other, the sound of tuning, the sound of a TV on (basketball, naturally) and all of the members gathering around the TV, reeds in their mouths to wet, music in hand to put in place, and the sound of an occasional marimba hit.

Camaraderie—yes, of the sports variety—thrives here.

“It’s like a really good time,” Austin Alieniello ’12 said.

Sometime around 2:30 p.m., the longtime jazz band director Nick Mariconda enters with some comments on the last competition. After all, they have one in two weeks.

Mariconda has been the director for 24 years—ever since the department needed a new director and he was up for the job due to his collegiate jazz background.

So practice begins. They start with an Ellington piece, a new one for an upcoming competition.

Group practice lasts for an hour, followed by sectional rehearsal, a return to the group, and a short break during which students take the opportunity to finish watching that game or crunching on a bag of chips. Then the ensemble comes together one more time.

With several competitions every year, students in jazz band report that they feel pressure to do well, especially since the high schools against which they compete include special performing arts high schools.

In an upcoming competition, one ensemble heralds from California.

Mariconda thinks highly of the students under his aegis, regardless.

“Usually the students in jazz band are high performers,” he said. “They’re reading complex rhythms, and they have to obtain the skill to improvise.”

Indeed, students are often expected to be able to perform an improvisation, or, as Mariconda said, “the crafting of your own solo right on the spot.”

However, competitions are not the only jazz band performances.

In June, a jazz concert is held in conjunction with the middle school bands, which allows for a stronger musical community.

“I remember going to it in middle school and thinking how good the high school jazz band was,” Nevona Friedman ’12, who plays trombone, said. “So it’s crazy to be able to be in it now as a Staples student.”

All of these competitions, performances, and 2:30–6 p.m. practices somehow bring a feeling of community within the ensemble.

“Music really brings us together,” Jeff Haswell ’12 said. “It’s a great experience to work under pressure and have to go through [it all].”

Friedman agreed.

“There’s definitely team spirit in jazz band,” she said.

“I think that everyone really wants the band to sound good as a whole, and unless all the parts are being played well, that’s not possible.”