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

Lights Up: Lower and Upper School Jazz groups perform in annual ‘Big Band’ Concert

Justin Tang
Trombone player Andre Touloumian ’24 plays his rendition of “Golden Cress” by Duke Ellington. All upper school jazz groups played in the concert, and the lower school’s Jazz Band was also invited to play.

The Upper School Jazz program hosted its Spring Jazz Concert in Rugby Auditorium on April 26. In its annual “Big Band” Concert, where the Lower School Jazz Band is also invited to play a set, each band performed repertoire, ranging from traditional, older arrangements to featured student compositions. The program is a part of the larger “Lights Up!” arts festival, which showcases dance, theatre and instrumental music produced in the spring semester. The night started with a set from the Lower School Jazz Band, followed progressively by the Upper School Jazz Ensemble, Studio Jazz and Jazz Band.

Upper School Jazz Director Chris Sullivan said each group, progressively from Jazz Ensemble, Studio Jazz and Jazz Band played well in each set.

“I’m very happy with it,” Sullivan said. “The energy was great. It was some of the best that I’ve heard all the bands play all year, and they stepped up at the exact right time.”

In addition to the regular repertoire, students in the program’s most advanced Jazz Band – bassist Manos Vougourakis ’25 and trumpet player Ella Graber ’25 – each contributed songs to the setlist. As part of a student composition created by Sullivan, the 2024 Blues Composition Contest Graber’s piece, titled “Time Flies” was selected as part of Sullivan’s Blues Composition Contest and was played during the concert by members of the Jazz Ensemble.

Graber plays in her self-composed piece, “Time Flies”.

Throughout the process of composing, Sullivan said students are given their own agency to build pieces eventually judged by other jazz instructors.

“I bet [Graber] wrote it in a day,” Sullivan said. “The piece is fixed 12-bar form with a fixed set of chord changes. Everybody was working from that, and everybody was writing a melody over those. [Graber] probably had a couple of versions, and she submitted her favorite. I sent them off to the coaches, and I received several, but there were three of them that were all in the top three of the coaches [picks].”

Vourgourakis also arranged “Someday My Prince Will Come,” which was played by the Jazz Band along with the Jazz Singers. Sullivan said the work necessary to create Vourgourakis’s piece was exemplary of his talents as a musician.

Members of the Jazz Singers perform on stage.

“It was a beautiful arrangement,” Sullivan said. “He also wrote all the vocal parts. He got the harmony for the singers, he studied a little bit about the range of brass instruments and the saxophone, and he did his homework. When he handed out [the arrangement], it made sense the first time around. It was very impressive.”

Jazz band trombone player Andre Touloumian ’24 also received his own feature with band accompaniment, performing “Golden Cress” by Duke Ellington. As trombone features are rare on their own, Touloumian said despite feeling nervous beforehand, he felt a sense of obligation playing one of his final songs at the school.

“I was feeling the emotions of my last concert,” Touloumian said. “I’ve done music here in jazz since ninth grade. I’ve got to end it out how I want it to.”

Touloumian said he has become a better musician and member of the community from his time in the jazz program throughout high school.

“Jazz has given me a super cool space,” Touloumian said. “Especially at Harvard-Westlake, this amazing program has given me a space to really express myself, work towards something and just have pure fun. Going into ninth grade [I was]not into jazz at all, but Dr. Sullivan got me into it. Now it’s half of what I listen to. It’s been a really great time here.”

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Connor Tang, Assistant News Editor
Justin Tang, Assistant Sports Editor

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    Carl FerrignoMay 5, 2024 at 5:57 pm

    Glade to see an intelligent use of music rather than head banging noise for idiots promoted by idiots for idiots…produced by money grabbers who have knowledge of only grabbing money and promoting ignorance in music.