Pizazz for jazz


Photo by Madelyn Lerew.

One of the Fishers’ jazz lab bands performs at the Jazz cafe held on May 13 in Cafe A.

    On May 13, various Fishers jazz bands, as well as those from Riverside Junior High and Fishers Junior High, hosted their annual Jazz Cafe. Due to the pandemic, this was their first time having the event in a couple of years.

    The students’ passion for jazz is on display as the FHS students either take jazz band as a class or rehearse outside of school in jazz lab band. This passion runs deep, as jazz band director Chris Dessent is a player himself.

Jazz band director Chris Dessent conducts a piece for one of the jazz lab bands. (Photo by Madelyn Lerew.)

    “I think my middle school had a jazz band,” Dessent said. “I was young and dorky and just signed up and then I learned I really liked it. I started on clarinet in Chicago where I grew up. Then my teacher was like ‘Hey, want to learn saxophone for jazz band?’ and I was like ‘Sure,’ and that’s how I got into it. And, my high school had a really good jazz program. My director is an awesome sax player and he really taught me a lot and got me more into it. Then in college, I played in a couple big bands. I’ve kept it a part of my teaching and playing career all the way through school.”

    High school students currently in jazz band have similar plans to those of Dessent in continuing on with music. Options for playing after high school can range from performing professionally or participating in smaller community bands.

    “I’m planning on getting a music education degree,” senior Daniel Cooper said. “I want to take a few years to perform professionally and eventually settle down to educate.”

    Outside of playing musicians can also compose music, Dessent for example has written a few of his own pieces, including arranging “Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)”, a swing-inspired piece that he had his group play. Part of why he likes jazz is the different opportunities for playing it offers.

    “I’ve always been a huge jazz fan,” Dessent said. “I grew up listening to a lot because my dad was a trumpet player and has played in jazz bands before and he exposed me to that style. I like teaching kids the style because it is pretty unique in comparison with classical music. [It has] different articulation style and different textural things you can work out.”

    Jazz music is a style of music that typically utilizes things like swinging eighth notes and improvisation. This differs from classical music which tends to be written more lyrically or in a march type fashion.

Senior Daniel Cooper solos in “Charade”, a Latin piece one of the jazz lab bands played dedicated to him. (Photo by Madelyn Lerew.)

    “You have a lot more freedom and chances of expression [with jazz] than you have in concert band,” Cooper said.

    Jazz bands are typically made up of fewer people than traditional concert bands, and this is no different at the high school. The band directors split up the two jazz lab bands in order to ensure that they could keep a closer-knit group in each band. 

    “My favorite part [of playing in jazz band] is the community and feeling of making music with all my friends,” Cooper said. “It’s a warming feeling,”