Yellowjackets create a buzz at the 34th annual Blue Ridge Jazz Festival

April 25, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

SMITHSBURG -- Smithsburg High School students watched and moved to the beat Friday night as the man who wrote the song they were performing soloed on the saxophone.

Bob Mintzer, a member of the jazz group the Yellowjackets, traveled to Smithsburg to perform in the 34th annual Blue Ridge Jazz Festival.

Mintzer also wrote "Happy Song," which he performed with Smithsburg's jazz band.

Playing with student musicians is rewarding, Mintzer said before his performance.

"It's keeping the music alive," he said.

The audience clapped appreciatively following Mintzer's solos during "Happy Song."

As he was introducing Mintzer, festival coordinator Gary Rupert called the performer and the Yellowjackets "way beyond what we usually do here." Military or collegiate jazz ensembles usually perform at the festival, he said.

Students also were excited about the caliber of this year's performers.

"I'm really excited to see their bassist play because he's magnificent," said Bret Marfut, 18, who plays bass for the high school's jazz band. He joined the jazz band because of all of the types of music programs offered by the school, jazz is the most interactive and modern, he said.


Bradley Reynolds, 16, who plays the tenor saxophone for Smithsburg's jazz band, likes jazz music because it's more challenging than other genres and is America's only indigenous music, he said.

An opportunity to play with the Yellowjackets was exciting, said Erin Kittel, a Smithsburg senior who has played with the jazz band for four years.

Evan Dennis, 16, listened to the Yellowjackets' music after finding out they would be performing at this year's festival. He likes their fusion style, like funk and swing music combined.

Phillip Weller, 16, thought the festival was "pretty cool," and he liked the band from Musselman High School in Inwood, W.Va., the best.

"They played really well," he said. "I enjoyed listening to that."

Kris Nigh, 15, who plays the trombone for the Smithsburg jazz band, thought the festival gave students a chance to hear professional bands, get ideas and expand their playing.

Jazz bands from North Hagerstown High School, Northern Middle School, Frederick (Md.) High School, Damascus (Md.) High School, Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., and Mountain Ridge High School in Frostburg, Md.. also performed.

Proceeds from the festival will go toward next year's festival, organizers said.

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