Music rings through the halls of the Berkeley High School (BHS) A-Building throughout the school day, as students involved in the various music classes hone their skills. Long renowned for its dedicated teachers, talented students, and sophisticated sound, the BHS jazz program offers students a unique opportunity to explore the nuances of jazz at an advanced level, with the aid of professional musicians.
This November and continuing into December, the BHS jazz bands perform in the Florence Schwimley Little Theater. Through concerts like these, students can include their friends and family in the music they play every day.
“If the energy on stage is exciting enough it can be very infectious and spread to everyone watching, making the music a really interactive experience, where the whole room is contributing to it — including the audience,” said jazz ensemble member and Independent Study (IS) senior, Dash Goss-Post.
In each concert, multiple jazz combos perform, and various students perform solos, showcasing their hard work over the last few months. “We played a lot of music, but some highlights were ‘Oleo’ and ‘Now You Know,’ which were both up-tempo songs that were hard to put together,” said Daniel Gitelman, a junior in Academic Choice (AC) and member of the BHS jazz ensemble.
For many jazz students, the jazz program has created a strong sense of community. “Being in jazz is like being in a different community because you get to be with people who share the same hobbies and are like you. It makes you feel like you aren’t just an unknown kid in this huge school,” said BHS freshman jazz student, Emma Huang.
According to Ruby Lim-Moreno, a sophomore in the Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA) and jazz student, this sense of community and camaraderie is strengthened through performances. “My favorite part of performing is mainly the music, but also getting to make art with a community of great people is pretty amazing,” she said.
Performances can also serve as a learning experience for students, pushing them to identify areas in need of improvement. Dominic Hernandez, a sophomore in the Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS), said, “It gives something for you as the musician to build off of. For example, like saying ‘oh next concert, I’m going to try to do this thing better.’”
In February of 2020, the BHS jazz ensemble will be making their fifth trip to Cuba. According to BHS Jazz director, Sarah Cline, before she took over the jazz program in 2011, the jazz band would go on trips every two years to various places such as Europe or Japan. “I wanted to go to a site in the African Diaspora so that we could learn more about the music we love,” said Cline. Cline added that through these trips, she aims to “open up [students’] hearts and minds” by exposing them to a different political landscape.
“I’m really excited to go to the National Music School in Cuba because they have some incredible teachers and students there, and getting to work with them is a once in a lifetime type of experience,” said Gross-Post.
Lim-Moreno emphasized the impact that Cline has had on her. “I think BHS Jazz is successful mostly thanks to our fantastic teacher, Ms. Cline. She is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had for so many reasons,” said Lim-Moreno. “Jazz has given me a reason to come to school on the days where everything feels like too much,” she added.
For Cline, the most important part of her job is teaching her students how to express themselves through jazz. “Being a music educator means helping students uncover their own sense of self through music. The voices of young people are important, and jazz teaches us all how to let our voices soar out, in community,” she said.