Combos to perform for two nights

By Jessica Barzilay

Upper school combos will perform a mixture of improvised and rehearsed jazz arrangements tomorrow and Friday in Rugby Theater at the last concert of the year.

The students wield the majority of control in creative directions and decision-making in the combos, upper school performing arts teacher Shawn Costantino said.

Costantino encourages students to take off creatively in the combos, improvising individually and going beyond the notes and sheet music in front of them, he said. He describes his role as “hands off,” letting the students pick their own music and set up their own performance. Independence is a big part of the program, he said.

“The students pick all of the music and my role is more as an adviser,” Constantino said. “I help them make sure they have learned the song correctly, I help them work on soloing and developing a creative concept and arrangement of what are usually some very complicated pieces.”

Ten combos at all levels will be performing, from the seniors in Jazz Explorers to sophomores, amounting to a total of nearly 60 students over the course of the two days. Each group has prepared a unique set, representing artists from Cee-Lo Green to Rush to the Beatles to John Coltrane.

“We’re playing a similar set to ones we have played out of school, with more progressive jazz instead of just standard jazz,” Jordan Bryan ’11, a Jazz Explorers drummer, said.

In preparation for the concert, which will be the last combo performance of the year, Costantino has been bringing in specialists both to hone the students’ skills and to expand their horizons.

“I try to kick the intensity level up a gear by bringing in the coaches,” Costantino said. “We have some amazing combo coaches who come in and work with the groups on their group sound, chemistry and ‘vibe.’”

Bryan said the program has deepened his appreciation of music, and has “allowed me to grow in a lot of ways.”

Martin Riu ’13 agreed that the upper school jazz program challenges the student musicians to reach a higher level of musicianship.

“From my experiences even before I was in jazz band, the concerts have always been amazing,” Riu said. “It’s basically professional.”