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Barnum, Esko, Moose Lake bands learn together during Jazz Day

The Esko Jazz Band performs "McArthur Park" during Jazz Day at Moose Lake High School. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal1 / 6
University of Minnesota Duluth jazz instructor Ryan Frane shares advice with Esko ninth-grader Chad Hart about how to improve his electric bass guitar playing. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal2 / 6
Volunteer John Thorene jokes with students as he waits for the jazz improvisation group to start so he can play his electric guitar. Another volunteer, Billy Barnard (left), plays the guitar. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal3 / 6
Moose Lake junior Emma Steen plays a tenor saxophone during an improvising group at Jazz Day. Steen also plays the flute in concert band and is learning bass guitar. Esko jazz instructor Rich Mowers also plays the saxophone with the students. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal4 / 6
A large group of mostly Barnum students fill the band room during the last jazz improvisation group Wednesday, April 11, at Moose Lake High School. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal5 / 6
Moose Lake Junior Michael Olson sang a solo as the jazz band played "Feeling Good" during one of their three songs on stage during Jazz Day. Olson also plays tenor saxophone in the band. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal6 / 6

The toe-tapping sounds of jazz music drifted out of the Moose Lake High School auditorium Wednesday, April 10.

The school hosted an afternoon of learning for Barnum, Moose Lake and Esko high school jazz bands. Each school took the stage and played three songs in front of the other bands, with Barnum kicking off the event at noon.

Esko band instructor Rich Mowers — a teacher by day and musician in The Hounds, The Trio and Big Time Jazz Orchestra some nights and weekends — organized the event and brought educators to help give the students feedback.

Ryan Hanson, Mower's assistant at Esko for many years, now works at Moose Lake and has 17 students in jazz band. Jeff Gilbertson of Barnum has 25 students in jazz band.

"It's a really fun event for all three schools to be part of," Gilbertson said. "I like that they get to have professional and college musicians work with them. It's important for them to know that there is a whole world of music out there for them after the graduate from high school."

"I want to help the students improve," Mowers said. "I have a lot to give."

The students listen avidly to each critique and suggestion. The educators explained different points of the music, then had the students play so they could hear it themselves.

Moose Lake students were encouraged to listen more to the leader of the section and then the section. They already showed improvement from last year's Jazz Day.

Mowers lead the jazz combo improvisation in the band room. The students laughed as he shared some of his struggles. He explained how to improvise, then he demonstrated on the saxophone. He "talked" back and forth with his friend and volunteer drummer, Kurt Savela of the Big Time Jazz Orchestra. The high school drummer's eyes widened as he listened to Savela and nodded to his classmates.

"It's a living art form," Mowers said.

Other volunteers were Billy Barnard, John Thorene, Tim Stratioti and Ryan Frane, a University of Minnesota Duluth jazz instructor.

Moose Lake student Michael Olson sang a solo during one of their three songs.

"At Moose Lake we have many great vocalists and singing with the jazz band is another way to have those talents exposed to the community," Hanson said.

Besides the school concerts, Moose Lake's jazz band can be heard at pep band games and graduation; they compete at the Minnesota State High School League music contest; and they play during some Agate Encore concerts.

This year, Barnum students played for a Veterans Day program at the Moose Lake Historical Society and during a holiday concert with the Moose Lake Community Band.

Esko jazz band has performed at Clyde Iron Works and Grandma's Saloon and Grill in Duluth and at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior.

Plans are already in the making for next year's Jazz Day, including having Barnum host.