All-Girls Jazz Band ready for the spotlight

Performing at the Edmonds Jazz Connection
By Brian Soergel | May 17, 2017
Courtesy of: Chris Lindberg College Place Middle School student Vanessa Oxales plays the trumpet.

Professional musicians and talented Edmonds School District high school bands will be hitting all the right notes at the 17th annual Edmonds Jazz Connection. But don’t forget the middle schoolers.

They’ve got chops, too.

Take, for instance, the district’s Middle School All-Girls Jazz Band, performing May 20 during the jazz festival, sponsored by the Edmonds Daybreakers Rotary Club. The band will be part of a full day of performances from nationally recognized and award-winning high school and middle school jazz programs from throughout the Pacific Northwest.

It also highlights numerous student groups that have performed in prestigious competitions nationwide.

Before the Jazz Connection, the Middle School All-Girls Jazz Band performed at the Edmonds-Woodway High School Little Theater. Joining them was pianist and vocalist Dawn Clement, the 2016 Earshot Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year.

Female jazz musicians, some from local high schools, are also serving as mentors to the middle school girls. The band’s instructors are Kate Labiak, College Place Middle School band director; Paige Anderson, freelance trumpet player and Everett School District teacher; and Taryn Zickefoose, freelance jazz drummer and Marysville Middle School band director.

Now in its second year, the band program provides a respectful and positive environment to nurture both the talent and leadership skills of middle school-aged girls in a jazz band setting.

“As evidenced by most high school jazz festivals, collegiate and professional jazz band concerts, there is a blatantly obvious lack of female musicians in the overwhelming majority of these ensembles,” said Rotary Club member Karen Shiveley.

“This is due to a variety of subjective factors: historically hiring practices of male-only musicians in the industry, unintentional gender bias in classrooms, and societal conditioning that does not promote women to take risks.”

Labiak explains how the band came to be.

“As band director for College Place Middle, I often attend the Essentially Ellington Festival in New York and, a few years ago, was amazed to note only boys performing. There was one girl, out of hundreds of student musicians. After a little research, I learned eighth-grade girls often don't make it to high school band because they're intimidated playing in front of boys. Turns out boys are a lot less inhibited.”

This year, the 22 girls from all over the Edmonds School District – nominated by their band directors – met on Wednesday nights between March and May.

Thirteen-year-old Vanessa Oxales, a College Place Middle School student, has been playing the trumpet for two years, following in her big brother’s footsteps.

“The band’s quite exciting,” she said. “I already belong to the College Place Middle School Jazz Band, but that's mostly boys.”

Her favorite part of performing? “Playing the melody,” she said.

Oxales plays the French horn, too.

The all-girls ensemble is made possible through the Edmonds Jazz Connection Music Lab program from funds raised through the Edmonds Jazz Connection. These proceeds are designated to fund numerous creative classroom programs like Labiak's.

“We’re really excited to work with the district on the Music Lab program to find and fund these creative classroom opportunities,” said Rotarian and Jazz Connection chairman Chris Lindberg.

“This all-girls ensemble is a fantastic effort. Kate’s group helps assist female music students, pairing them with older accomplished female musicians, and creating an environment to help them access their full potential and build life skills through perfecting their craft.”

The Rotary Club of Edmonds Daybreakers sponsors the 17th annual festival May 20, held at various venues. Big bands, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Edmonds Center for the Arts; chorals, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at Holy Rosary Church; combos, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at Edmonds Theater. Admission free, but donations will go to educational and scholarship programs. Go to www.jazzconnection.org for more information.

 

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