Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dutch jazz band gets its groove back

ORANGE CITY-After failing to earn a bid in last year's Iowa Jazz Championships, the MOC-Floyd Valley High School jazz band is ore than ready to play its way to the top.

While the Dutch had earned bids for the state high school jazz contest 10 out of the last 11 years, director Mary Hulstein said their downtime last year was spent getting back to the fundamentals.

"It was a chance for us to refocus a little bit," she said.

The refocusing paid off.

The MOC-Floyd Valley jazz program not only got its flare back, but it also swept the Class 3A competition at the Northwest Iowa District Jazz Band Festival in Sioux City on Feb. 3, automatically qualifying for the Iowa Jazz Championships, which will be held Tuesday, April 14, in Des Moines.

"That was really exciting," said senior Carissa Cleveringa, who also earned an outstanding soloist award on trombone.

To Hulstein, being able to go back to the jazz championships couldn't be more rewarding.

"I'm unbelievably excited," she said. "It's a good feeling to be going there again."

That's especially true given the tough jazz competition in northwest Iowa.

"Our district is not an easy one to attend," Hulstein said. "Traditionally, some of the same groups are seen consistently placing at the top."

And that's OK, as MOC-Floyd Valley jazz members will still give it their all.

Hulstein said the jazz competition is a little different than competing at the state competition in an athletic event.

"It's a different environment at music competitions," she said. "It's more about aesthetics, putting your heart and soul into it."

Hopefully, MOC-Floyd Valley can do just that and maybe bring a piece of hardware back to add to the shiny jazz trophy collection.

"A trophy ends up being the cherry on top of the sundae," Hulstein said. "But, really, I could care less if we bring one back. I just want to go play well and give people an emotional experience."

Anyone who has ever performed in front of a group of people knows the treacherous knot that will likely form in most of MOC-Floyd Valley jazz band members' stomachs before they perform at the Iowa Jazz Championships on Tuesday.

Here's how they plan to deal with it:

"I'm going to take lots of deep breaths and talk with the others in the band. Sometimes imagining the audience isn't there helps, too," freshman drummer Jon Haverdink said.

"I'm going to think that it's not that big of deal. My solo will be over in five minutes anyway," senior trombonist Carissa Cleveringa said.

"I'm just going to have fun and try to downplay my nerves. I'll also close my eyes during my solo," sophomore trumpeter Dan Clemens said.

Earning a spot in the Iowa Jazz Championships lineup is no easy task.

While all high school jazz programs are eligible for an invitation to the event, not everyone can qualify. Automatic invitations are issued to the first- and second-place bands in each class of the six district jazz festivals in the state, making up 48 of the 60 spots.

Wild card qualifiers make up the remaining 12 spots. In order to be eligible for a wild card selection, bands must either beat a band that is an automatic qualifier at an independent jazz festival in Iowa, win an independent jazz festival in Iowa with at least two bands in that class or finish third at the district jazz festival.

The Iowa Jazz Championships Board of Directors looks at the results of all Iowa Jazz Festivals and selects the most qualified bands for wild card selections and issues invitations in March.

Four area high schools will represent N'West Iowa at the Iowa Jazz Championships in Des Moines on Tuesday, April 14:

  • 1:15 p.m. MOC-Floyd Valley, Class 3A
  • 1:45 p.m. South O'Brien, Class 2A
  • 2:15 p.m. Okoboji, Class 2A
  • 2:45 p.m. Rock Vally, Class 1A

Class 1A, 2A and 3A performances will be held at the Polk County Convention Complex. Tickets are $5 at the door. The top two bands in each class will perform in the evening finals concert beginning at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center in Des Moines. Finals tickets are $10.

This article appeared in the April 11, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

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