Student Musicians Take Stage At Jazz Festival
The Forbes Road School District’s student body increased by 28 percent last week when 54 student musicians representing a total of 14 school districts converged in rural, northern Fulton County for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association’s District 4 Jazz Festival.
With the two-day festival organized by director Ryan Wade concluding Saturday with a twohour concert, Forbes Road Superintendent Mark Loucks told those on hand the jazz festival marks the first time the school has ever hosted a district music event at a high school level. Loucks applauded the efforts of many in the culmination of the momentous event, pointing out that “music is a lifelong gift” and that the student musicians performing were “some of the best central Pennsylvania has to offer.”
Representing Forbes Road as well as all of Fulton County at the jazz festival was 17-year-old trombone player Logan Kennedy, who was one of 18 students to take the stage as members of the prestigious Dr. William Stowman Band. Stowman, chair of the Department of Music and director of Instrumental Studies at Messiah College, selected five songs as part of his portion of the concert including Duke Ellington’s “In A Mellotone” arranged by John Morris.
Stowman noted the arrangement has been a longtime favorite for him and gave kudos to the trombone section consisting of Kennedy, Kirsten Elsasser of East Juniata, Susanna Mills of Penns Valley and Joanna White of Huntingdon, even though he jested the instrument itself was not one of his particular favorites.
Kennedy stated “In A Mellotone” was not only his favorite song of the entire day’s performance but was also his favorite by the Stowman band. “You don’t have to think about your part because nothing had to be exact,” said Kennedy, who said he also enjoyed the “relaxing” tune because the melody was lead and dominated by the trombone section.
Not a stranger to district festivals, Kennedy, a junior, said district jazz offers a different type of atmosphere for those involved. “Concert band conductors can be very drab depending on the music, where jazz is full of life. With jazz, everything is laid back and there is no competition. With concert band, everything has to be precise. We are all there for the same reason though, to make music,” he stated.
The favorite part of any festival for Kennedy revolves around the first and last notes played.
“When we start, we signify that this festival has begun, and we will give it our full attention. When the last note comes, you get a sense of accomplishment because you have no regrets,” said Kennedy, adding he has a new respect for host schools having observed and assisted with the process. “I now know how much work is required to make a festival work. It gives me a sense of pride knowing that I helped make this festival possible.”
Joining the Dr. Joshua Davis Band on the stage was trumpet player Sage Burdge of Fort Littleton. A 16-year-old from the Southern Huntingdon School District, Saturday’s performance by Burdge represents her third appearance at district jazz.
“Jazz festivals are different than concert festivals because they are more laid back,” Burdge said. “There are also less people so the directors can get more personal with the students.”
“My favorite part about this festival is that we get to make music with other people our age and can really get into the tunes and make them our own,” stated Burdge, who referenced her favorite song of the day as being “Intersecting Lines” performed by the Stowman Band. “I liked it because it had a great rhythm and feel, and they played it really well.”
In addition to guest conductors Stowman and Davis, a director of jazz studies at Susquehanna University, District 4 band instructors Paul Leskowicz of State College, Richard Kane of Mount Union, Jordan Canner from Huntingdon, Kevin Milliken of East Juniata and Jay Zimmerman of Bellefonte oversaw the student musicians known as the Directors’ Lab Band. The group played a variety of tunes, including “Think” by Aretha Franklin as well as “Caravan” by Duke Ellington.