Students of the jazz program at Santa Monica High School showcased their talents on Saturday, May 7, 2016 at the Westlake High School Jazz Festival, faring well in competition. The Jazz Festival featured 68 jazz bands and combos and provided an excellent forum for the 38 Samohi students to perform among other stellar musicians from across the region.

“Participating and excelling in an event like the Westlake High School Jazz Festival provides such an educational and motivational experience for our students and illustrates our deep level of commitment to the District’s arts and music programs,” Superintendent Sandra Lyon said. “We are so proud of each student, the directors and all those who have contributed to success of our thriving music program.”

Santa Monica High’s jazz program is exceptional in its structure. It operates as a dual enrollment program with Santa Monica College, meeting only twice a week after school. In contrast to the Santa Monica High model, virtually every band at the festival meets as a regular course each day during the school week.

“The fact that Samohi’s program performed so well is a testament to the fantastic music education our students receive, starting with the elementary music years all the way up through the high school level,” Tom Whaley, visual and performing arts coordinator and jazz band 1 and combo director, said. “We’d like to extend a very special thanks to all the fine music teachers in our District and each supporter of the Samohi jazz program, including the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation for supporting many music programs.”

The jazz festival offered various levels of competition for the music groups, from “novice” to “heavy” – an ideal opportunity for the jazz students to hear some of the highest quality performers in Southern California. Students also had the opportunity to hear a fantastic noon concert featuring the Cal State Northridge jazz ensemble under the direction of Gary Pratt and the Josh Nelson Trio performed before the awards ceremony.

Jazz band 2, under the direction of Sean Pawling, placed first place in the novice big band division and was the only band in the division to earn straight “superior” ratings (the highest ratings given by an adjudicator). Jazz band 1, under the direction of Tom Whaley, placed second in the advanced big band division and also was the only band in the advanced division to earn unanimous superior rankings. The scores from the three judges resulted in Moorpark High School winning by .17 of a point even though Santa Monica had received all superior ratings and Moorpark received two superiors and one excellent from the adjudicators.

The Samohi jazz program recently received a generous donation of $5,000 and the donor requested that a Go Fund Me page be set up to raise an additional $5,000 to help the program with operational expenses. Please visit and support the Samohi Jazz program. All donations are greatly appreciated.

The Samohi Jazz bands will present the final concert on Saturday, May 21, 2016 from noon to 2:30 pm at the famous Catalina bar and Grill in Hollywood. The concert will feature guest artist, composer, arranger and jazz trumpet player, Jeff Bunnell. For tickets, email: reservations@catalinajazzclub or call- 323- 466-2210.