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Jamming at the Nineteenth Annual Jazz Jamboree

January 25th, 2016


Arlington Heights, IL – A sense of true collaboration and participation was felt at Thomas Middle School all day on Saturday, as twelve bands from middle schools all over the area, came together to learn, play, and listen.

Thomas’s nineteenth annual Jazz Jamboree, put on by Thomas band instructor Dana Berry, is not a competition. It focuses on the carefree environment needed for middle school students to showcase their musical skills and to hear professional critiques.

“This is not a competitive event,” Berry said, “so there is no stress or pressure. It is a true community event.”

Berry started the Thomas Jazz Jamboree 19 years ago and has since developed relationships with middle school band directors all over the area who come back year after year.

“This is a great educational experience for students,” Fremont Middle School Band Director, Brent Burger said. “It’s not about who’s better than who because it’s about the complete educational experience for the students.”

Burger has brought his band to this event twelve times, and plans to keep on coming.

Each of the twelve bands played for a half hour on stage in the Thomas commons. An assigned professional listened to the band play, and then traveled with the band into the Library Media Center to instruct and critique their performance.

Mark O’Connor of the Mark O’Connor Quintet is one such professional who was excited to teach these middle school bands. 

“I want to help the kids take the next step,” said O’Connor, who has a doctorate in jazz from the University of Illinois, and who has been playing professionally in Chicago for 20 years. “Music teachers provided such knowledge to me, and I’d like to pass it on.”

Both the Mark O’Connor Quintet and the Tim Seisser Trio performed for one hour each to give the middle school bands a break and allow them a chance to hear some professionals play their best.

Adam Harris