The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

HW Jazz hosts third Jazz Lunch Concert series with guest performers

Connor Tang
Performing Arts Teacher Chris Sullivan speaks to the audience before the group’s opening set Nov. 2. The performance was the third of the Jazz Lunch Concert Series, a set of new performances created by Sullivan at the beginning of the year.

The jazz program hosted its third lunch concert in Chalmers 104 on Nov. 2. The Jazz Lunch Concert Series, created this year by Performing Arts Teacher Chris Sullivan, is a new set of performances where professional musicians are brought in to play for the school community.

Sullivan invited a quintet consisting of trumpeter Aaron Janik, vibraphone player Sasha Berliner, guitarist Andrew Renfroe, bassist Jonathan Richards and drummer Jonathan Pinson. All players studied music in their undergraduate years in college and currently perform in various bands.

Sullivan said that he decided to create the Lunch Concert Series to try and expand the jazz program in his third year as the director.

“This is my third year here, and the first couple years I think I was still feeling it out and seeing what I was capable of and getting a general feel for the program,” Sullivan said. “This year, I really feel like I have a better understanding of just the program as a whole and my capabilities. Now, I’ve sort of sat down and mapped out the year, and tried to figure out a way to get more [concerts and events] like this happening. This is the first time and I hope it’s a series that continues to grow, for not just the students but the community as well.”

Janik, who played trumpet in the quintet, said he encourages jazz students to continue developing their listening abilities as well as their playing skills.

“Music takes time, but there comes a certain point where it’s not necessarily the instrument that develops, but the ear,” Janik said. “I would encourage all young people to develop their ear and get that more comfortable, because that’s what unlocks music. That’s what makes music addicting and so much fun, when you can actually hear what’s going on and what your bandmates are playing.” 

Janik spoke briefly to the audience after the opening song about his experiences playing with different jazz bands. He said that although there are cultural differences between players in the world, they can still communicate with each other through creating music.

“When you’re traveling all around the world, you start playing with these different people,” Janik said. “We might not be able to share words or common language, but we can get on the stage to do a gig together. It fosters this friendship that goes beyond language. I have friends in places like Hong Kong, Beijing and Israel, where I might not be able to share a conversation with them, but I’m always learning how to make music with them and collaborate with them. Playing music with somebody is how you forge a bond, just like having a conversation with somebody.”

Darren Yilmaz ’26, a drummer in Jazz Ensemble, said he hopes to apply Pinson’s listening techniques to his own music.

“[Pinson] was pretty incredible,” Yilmaz said. “He was able to go with the flow of the song, and he knew when to be quiet [and] when to be loud. I really appreciate that, to be aware and know when someone is being highlighted, and to be able to communicate with other players without talking. It’s something I really need to work on, and something I can take away from this.” 

Janik said jazz is a uniquely powerful music genre because of its diverse styles.

“Whether you understand it or not, there’s energy behind it,” Janik said. “There’s heart behind it. [Jazz] is one of the most expressive forms of music because so much of it is improvisation, fabrication and communication.”

Sullivan said he hopes the Lunch Concert Series performances will have a meaningful impression on the jazz students. 

“It’s been very gratifying for me this year to bring my close musician friends and colleagues in to play for my students,” Sullivan said. “[The musicians] will play in Rugby and on the same equipment, on their bass, piano and drums, and so on. The hope is that I can inspire the kids by bringing professional players into the same spaces [at school].”

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Connor Tang, Assistant News Editor
Nathan Wang, Assistant News Editor

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