Jazz Ensemble soars at National Jazz Festival


Photo contributed by Witt Lindau ’23

The Staples Jazz Ensemble takes first place in their division at the National Jazz Festival with 18 ensemble members. The National Jazz Festival allowed the ensemble to show off what they have been working on together every Thursday afternoon.

It’s 9 a.m. when Staples’ students hear the blare of the loudspeaker as Principal Stafford Thomas Jr. begins his formal morning announcements. These often begin with congratulations to numerous athletic successes:; the girls’ tennis team won their match or the boys’ lacrosse team won another game. However, students rarely hear about the school’s musical achievements

It isn’t every day that a high school’s music ensemble receives national recognition. However, the Staples Jazz Ensemble defied those odds. The 18-member group participated in the National Jazz Festival which took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Saturday, April 22. Their group performance, led by band director Phillip Giampietro, was awarded second place in the large school division. Witt Lindau ’23 won an “Outstanding Musician” award in the same division. 

This trip was not only a test to the strength of the ensemble’s musical abilities, but of the team’s bond, as they grew closer through experiences inside and outside of the festival grounds.  

“I don’t think that without any of the fun we had, that we would have placed second in the nation,” Lindau said. 

For the group, the fun began the moment their bus pulled out of the school that Friday afternoon. For what may seem like an unimportant part of a trip, the bus ride there bonded the group more than ever, as they filled every minute of their time playing games like Among Us and even listening to each other freestyle songs. 

“The bus ride was really instrumental in our success,” Lindau said. “The comradery brought us all together so that we were feeling less pressured for the performance later on.”

The rest of their Friday night was spent exploring the town. One thing that stood out to many players was the opportunity to listen to a live jazz performance in an old city church where professional V Shayne Frederick played. 

“It was a really great performance,” Delaney McGee ’23 said. “That loosened us up because we were able to actually enjoy and sit down at a concert which we never usually get to do.”

Through the group’s experiences on the trip, the musicians could go into the festival stronger than ever before. Even with 18 of them, and a vast variety of ages and grades, they were able to all grow closer together which carried into the ensemble’s performance.

I don’t think that without any of the fun we had, that we would have placed second in the nation

— Witt Lindau ’23

“All of the younger students in the group, the ninth and tenth graders,” Giampietro said, “were included just as easily as students who have been in the group for four straight years.” 

Another key factor in the ensemble’s national success was their teacher Mr. Giampietro or as they called him: their “fearless leader.”

“He connects us all as musicians and he can still have fun while directing the band in a serious manner,” Freddie Aldridge ’24 said.

Although counted as a high school class credit, the jazz ensemble meets after school every Thursday from 3-5 p.m. Even with limited time, the group can learn numerous pieces and master them with ease. 

“Our dedication is more than everyone being here every week,” Gianpietro said. “It’s how invested we are in each of those moments.”

As successful as they are musically through their hard work and devotion to music, the crucial component of the group comes with the community they have built in the ensemble.

“It doesn’t feel like you’re taking a class,” William Hayes ’23 said. “It just feels like you’re a bunch of friends coming together to do something you all love.”