The group of 21 is even less used to placing, much less bring back a hefty trophy.
But, that all changed Tuesday, when the jazz band placed third in Class 1A at the state competition in Des Moines.
"I am extremely pleased," said director Jeff Robilliard. "It's the best they've played all year, and hat's all I can ask for, is that they go and play their best. After that, we don't have any control over what happens."
Robilliard, who is finishing up his first year at Rock Valley, came into a program centered around concert band, but because the students had a high understanding of the fundamentals of music, jazz came almost naturally, helping them propel to a first-place finish in Class 1A at the Northwest Iowa District Jazz Band Festival on Feb. 3 in Sioux City.
The high placing automatically qualified the band for the Iowa Jazz Championships.
"It's been a whole new experience," Robilliard said. "They went down to Des Moines not knowing what to expect or what this was all about and I think it was a really good educational experience for them. It kind of opened their eyes to what else is going on in the state as far as jazz education is concerned."
And, as always, the competition was stiff, but that did not phase the Rock Valley musicians.
Besides their strong showing, performing "Just a Minor Thing," "'Round Midnight," and "Afro Blue," senior lead alto saxophonist Chris Treinen and junior lead trumpet player Jordan Dykstra earned outstanding soloist awards. Dykstra was also selected as one of the top four outstanding performers of the day in Class 1A.
While the jazz band is done with performances this school year, Robilliard already is anticipating next season.
"I think that there's no reason this group can't be better next year," he said. "You always want to shoot to raise your expectations ever year. We're losing five strong seniors, but the whole band is strong and there's a really good freshman class coming up, so I'm optimistic that it will be a really great group again next year.
1. North Makaska
2. Rockwell City-Lytton
3. Rock Valley
4. Northern University
6. Central City
This article appeared in the April 18, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.