Heights High musicians are swingin' in the 'Swing State'
For six Heights High jazz musicians, swing is the thing. A year ago they formed Swing State, a jazz combo, through the school’s small-group ensemble program. Within a few months, they were playing gigs at local establishments.
The group members–drummer Andy Bell, trumpeter William van den Bogert, baritone saxophonist Nicholas Edwards, pianist Jeremy Kauffman, and bassist Ian Nocente–are all seniors. Alumnus Ryan Wilson, a tenor saxophonist who graduated this past spring, now attends Ohio University.
“Our first gig was at The Wine Spot on Lee Road," said Bell, "and we packed the house, mostly with our friends and family. That was an awesome experience. We had goose bumps, getting to do what we love and get paid a little bit for it. Wow.”
They continue to line up a few gigs, and they practice twice a week—once as an in-school session with Tim McDonald, jazz combo coach, and once at a member’s house.
Brett Baker, instrumental music director, is very proud of the students’ dedication to music. “The ensemble program encourages students to form these small groups,” he said. “And the guys in Swing State have taken the work to a very high level.”
Performing music also requires business skills. “We are learning all kinds of things about how to manage, negotiate and handle publicity for our performances,” said Edwards. Baker, along with Ben Ammon, band director, and Larry Smith, percussion coach, provide support in the business end of music performance.
Swing State, like all Heights High ensembles, is coached by a local musician. McDonald, a 2005 Heights High graduate, sees the young musicians growing as performers and musicians. “They are writing their own music more and honing their improvisational skills and ear training,” he said.
They chose their group’s name because it is the name of one of their early favorite pieces. “And of course, Ohio is the swing state going into November’s election,” said Nocente.
After these seniors graduate from high school in the spring, they plan to attend college. Bell plans to study finance, van den Bogert plans to apply to Columbia and Carnegie Mellon to study engineering, Edwards plans to study music and will apply to the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, Kauffman plans to study bio-chemistry, and Nocente plans to apply to Ohio University and the University of Texas at San Antonio.
The band can be contacted through its Facebook page.
Joy Henderson is the parent/community liaison for Heights High.