RHAM jazz concert showcases local talents

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Mon., Feb. 10, 2014
The saxophone section takes a bow during a Feb. 6 RHAM jazz concert. (L-r): Ryan Cordier, Shannon Moquin and Ann Hetherington-Coy. Photos by Melanie Savage.
The saxophone section takes a bow during a Feb. 6 RHAM jazz concert. (L-r): Ryan Cordier, Shannon Moquin and Ann Hetherington-Coy. Photos by Melanie Savage.

A Feb. 6 concert at RHAM High School brought together the middle school and high school jazz bands for separate performances. Middle School Director Kerrie Verrastro offered some insight into the choosing of selections for her performers. “Gordon Goodwin's ‘That's How We Roll’ is from one of my favorite Jazz albums, ‘Big Phat Big Band,’” she said. “This year I knew that the brass players were outstanding and would have fun with this chart. We will continue to work up the tempo on this so that it is closer to the burning tempo on the original recording.”

Verrastro said she always chooses a ballad for her students to work on. This season's performance featured George Shutack’s “Long Lost Friend.” Ballads, said Vellastro, “develop the ability for musical phrasing and expression, work on intonation, and developing ensemble listening skills.” Solos were auditioned to allow Verrastro to hear “not only their ability to perform the part, but how they react to pressure.” 

Peter Busa, the alto saxophone student who won the audition, “impressed me this year with the amount of musical growth he has displayed both with the solo and in ensemble playing,” said Verrastro. “Not only does he play his own parts well, but he listens to the rest of the ensemble and adjusts to what he hears. When asked what the group can improve, Peter always has a constructive comment with merit. I look forward to seeing where his talent leads.”

"’Jericho' is a fun arrangement based on the tune of Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho set to the '40s 'Sing, Sing, Sing' style,” said Verrastro. “I chose it because I knew the kids would have a blast playing it and it would also help them develop swing style.”

Mackinley Yorgensen, the student who performed the opening drum solo, said he’d been working on the piece since last summer, when it was assigned as the audition piece to qualify for the jazz band. “He did a great job on it,” said Verrastro.

RHAM High School Director Nick Kokus said that he always chooses music with curricular goals in mind, asking himself, “What type of musical experience will the students have by studying this music?” he said. “Each concert rotation I try to cover a variety of styles: Swing, Bossa Nova, Shuffle, Ballad, etc. Also, I am always looking to highlight the strengths of the ensemble and individual students. I'm proud of the progress all the students have made.”

Kokus said there are a number of seniors in this year’s jazz band, and that each year at least one or two students in the high school music department plan to pursue music in college. While many students’ plans are still up in the air, Kokus said that Dan Busa (guitar) has plans to study acoustics, Robert Earhart plans to study trombone performance, and Dino Marino (tenor saxophone) was looking to complete a music minor. “To me, this is very special and thrilling,” said Kokus. “However, the most important goal is to instill in all the students the desire and ability to participate in music regardless of their career path.  As I often tell the students, ‘It doesn't have to be your life, to be part of your life.’”

Senior Dino Marino was a featured solo player in each of the selections played at the Feb. 6 concert. Marino has been playing the clarinet since he was 5 or 6 years old, switching over to concentrate on the tenor sax, though he still plays the clarinet, the guitar and some piano. Marino plans to go to a college with a strong music program, even though it won't be his major. Since he can’t see himself teaching, Marino hopes to major in forensic data, with a minor in music. He’s still waiting to hear whether any music scholarship money will be forthcoming.

While he has been heavily involved in the bands at RHAM, “Really, most of my music is done outside of the school,” said Marino. Marino has been involved in a band with several other RHAM students called Dino and the No Names for a number of years, and they have an upcoming performance scheduled in March to benefit the Hebron and Marlborough food banks. Though the musicians will be spread out after graduation, Marino is hopeful that the band will continue. “We hope to still be able to get together and jam,” he said.

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