The music department’s director of jazz studies, Wes Parker, travels to Birmingham on Thursday, Jan. 17 to direct one of three Alabama All-State jazz bands at the Alabama Music Educators Association annual conference.
The All-State bands are comprised of the top high school jazz musicians in the state, and are broken into three levels. Parker will direct the Bronze band, comprised of 21 students and ten alternates. Students in the All-State bands have to audition twice – once to qualify for their regional honor bands, and then again for All-State.
Parker sees parallels between the All-State students and the students in his NC State jazz ensembles. “Most of the students who are in my top groups here came up through their All-State bands,” said Parker. “Being in high school, they’re not used to being in a band that’s that talented, top to bottom. It’s good for them to experience not being the best and only best in their band.”
Parker is a frequent clinician for middle, high school and collegiate jazz ensembles around the region. He enjoys working with the students and learning about other programs’ approaches to teaching jazz. “My benefit is going to be seeing how they do it there and seeing the quality of the best of their best so I can bring what I learn there back to North Carolina. I can compare and contrast that to what our high school jazz bands and middle school jazz bands are doing and can give insight to my colleagues in that way.”
A full schedule of rehearsals with the band starts for Parker on Thursday and culminates in a concert on Saturday morning. He plans for the Bronze band to perform a mix of classic and modern jazz, including Sammy Nestico’s “The Queen Bee” and Christian McBride’s “Brother Mister” along with a couple other tunes. In addition to rehearsing, the All-State students get to participate in jam sessions with the clinicians and see the Auburn University jazz ensemble perform.
In addition to directing two jazz big bands and several small combos, Parker teaches jazz improvisation and history of jazz courses for the music department. The first jazz concerts of the semester will be held Feb. 14 and 15 at 7pm in Thompson Hall’s Titmus Theatre. Tickets will be available online and at Ticket Central starting Monday, Feb. 4.