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Improvising with style


Annual fundraiser welcomes first-time soloists


Jivin’ With Jazz

Tuesday, March 29

Trinity United Methodist Church –– Doors open 5:45 p.m.

Tickets sold in advance at CCHS and Trinity United Methodist, $12.50


By Kate Hayden

There’s a first time for all jazz soloists: that moment standing in front of a crowd, improvising music off the cuff, hoping the tune sinks in for some audience members. Tuesday evening’s ‘Jivin with Jazz’, held by the Charles City High School jazz band, will be that first time for many students.

“A lot of people think they’re just making up music,” jazz band director Jake Gassman said. “They’ve practiced how to do that, they have different ideas that they know are going to work, and it’s their job to kind of spontaneously put that together.

“Kind of like a conversation. We know all the words, we just have to put them together in a way that’s interesting.”

It’s bound to be an exciting conversation next Tuesday, when high school musicians close out the festival season with a bang for parents and community members. Offering dinner catered by Dave Holschlag, desserts for sale by jazz parents and a silent auction, the show will open with a few numbers from North Grande Jazz, the middle school ensemble in their first Charles City performance of the year before moving on to high school students.

“Our music should be as polished as it’s going to be, so we should sound our best for this performance,” Gassman said.

With no worries about ratings or feedback from judges, the bands have a little more room to play with the music and add more soloists to each piece, Gassman said. Between two to seven students will play a solo during each song.

“The biggest thing is just to get them to try it. A lot of these kids are just naturally creative, so we provide them with some different scales they can start with and give them the confidence to put the horn to their face, or play the piano, bass or guitar,” Gassman said.

At $12.50 per ticket, the night’s fundraiser will pay for nearly a full year of the jazz program, he added, covering registration fees, instrument upkeep and music costs for the students. It’s a value price point for the evening, Gassman said, letting community members enjoy a good performance at a reasonable price. Tickets can be reserved by calling the high school or Trinity United Methodist church, where the show will be held.  

As well as the included catered meal, guests have the option of purchasing homemade desserts from volunteering parents during the night –– parents who have put in time to keep the annual event organized and running smoothly.

“Our jazz parents especially know, we’re doing this as a family. It’s really a group effort to make sure that our program is fundable,” Gassman said.

If anything, go for the jazz, stay for the dessert. One item in particular catches the director’s attention every time.

“There’s a dessert out there that I eyeball every year, and I don’t get it (before it’s gone),” Gassman admits. “It’s a parent that has been with the program for a long time, so I’ve seen it for many years.”

Sweet treats, good music: that’s a pairing that doesn’t go out of style.