‘An Experience I Will Never Forget’ A Jazz Cat’s Account of Music Fest Trip

By Kerstin Little

The jazz cats, shown here in their school rehearsal space, played with pros at the Swing Central Jazz festival

As a teenager, there are certainly not many reasons that would get me out of bed before 11 a.m. However, when I woke up at 4 on the morning of March 28, I was thrilled to realize that I’d soon be on my way to Savannah, Georgia with my high school jazz band.

This trip was one of the highlights of my four-year high school jazz career. As the only girl in the jazz band made up of about 20 other students, the rest of the band are like brothers to me. Our home for four nights was a few little townhouses that sat right next to each other. They were the cutest houses! Out back of two of the three houses was a decked area. That’s where we spent our downtime eating, playing cards, talking and laughing.

Editor’s note: The Northview High School Jazz Band recently returned from Swing Central Jazz, a workshop and competition held annually at the Savannah Music Festival in Georgia. Northview and Byron Center were the only two Michigan schools participating among 12 nationwide. Northview senior and tenor sax player Kerstin Little wrote this account of what it was like to play with jazz pros and some of the top student musicians in the country.

As someone who gets homesick easily, I was very glad to have been with these amazing people while so far away from home. It was almost easy to forget how much I missed my family and pets and friends back home when every member of the jazz band brought me so much laughter and joy! I am thankful to say that I now feel so much closer to my band.

Kerstin Little plays tenor sax with the Northview High Jazz Band

The Swing Central Savannah Music Festival was even more exciting and enjoyable than I thought it would be. I learned so much from our clinicians and the professionals, and I’ll speak for everyone in our band when I say that it was tons of fun! It was a very humbling experience for our jazz band members. … Those pros spewed ideas and suggestions at us left and right! Considering we were one of 12 bands from around the country to be selected for the festival, the clinicians and professional players were able to be very picky while helping us out with our three required pieces: “Night Train” arranged by Etienne Charles, “Blues and the Abstract Truth” by Oliver Nelson, and “Quietude” by Thad Jones.

Marcus Roberts was the leader/director of the festival, and he was quite an inspiration to me. He is blind, and an amazing piano player. When I watched him play, I could see his strong love for what he does.

I’m sure I’m not the only member of our band who feels very humbled and proud to know that we are one of the best bands from around the U.S. to audition to be a part of this festival. Even though we didn’t place as one of the three finalist bands, we had such a wonderful time — especially while performing. It was incredible to hear the different bands play the same songs that we had been playing for months; it was amazing to hear all of the different ways the songs were interpreted by not only the high school bands, but the pros also!

All in all, I am very grateful for this experience at the Savannah Music Festival. It brought our band members closer together while giving us insight into jazz and life. This trip was a great way to begin the ending of my last year in jazz band. It was an opportunity I will not take for granted, and an experience that I will never forget.

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Following the Music South

Swing Central Jazz

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