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Gettin' Jazzed

(ran PC edition)

In years past, the All-County Symphonic Band Concert has been the premier event for the best of the best.

But those who are into tackling those jazz licks will get their chance to audition for the first All-County Jazz Band in January, with a concert to be held in April.

"It's going to be a first _ hopefully the start of a new tradition for the county," said Mary Harvey, band director at Wesley Chapel High. "It will be another outlet for the kids _ kids who really like jazz band (on the school level). It's a good way to pull all the talent in the county together."

"The jazz, it's good stuff," said Joe Tiemann, 17, a trombone player from Wesley Chapel High School. In the past, Joe and others have gotten their kicks playing with the North End Jazz Ensemble, a group started by Patrick McDermott, the director of the Center of the Arts at Wesley Chapel. "The All-County Jazz Band is a good idea," Joe said. "It's about time."

The prelude for Joe and other aspiring jazz musicians came last week when the Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra made its second appearance at the Pasco Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High School.

Last year, jazz trumpet artist Dan McMillion and his 16-piece orchestra were on hand to celebrate the opening of the Pasco Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High.

Before this year's concert, which featured an improvisational number that included some students, members of the band worked with the young musicians during a special jazz workshop.

Ninety students from schools throughout Pasco County signed up for the workshop, McDermott said.

"Part of the mission of the Center for the Arts is providing educational opportunities for the students," he said. "I can't think of anything better than this."

While a pelting rain and a traffic-snarling automobile accident likely kept some away, others made the trek.

"It took us an hour to get here from Land O'Lakes, but I'm glad we made it," said Elaine Grunewald. She brought her two sons, Jeremy and Zachary, who are both sixth-graders at Pine View Middle School. "It's just wonderful for them to be here," Mrs. Grunewald said. "To see all this is such good opportunity."

No doubt being able to sit in with a band that has received a Grammy nomination for the CD Got the Spirit and was nominated for Jazz Recording of the Year by the European publication Jazz Europe was a big draw for students.

"We've started to do more workshops with the band. We're getting into it more," McMillion said. "I think it's good for the kids. I wish I had something like this when I was in high school."

Of course it helps to have a captive audience: kids who are into jazz.

Like 17-year-old John O'Leary, who was tickling the ivories and loving it under the watchful eyes of the orchestra's pianist, Richard Drexler. John has been playing piano, "mostly classical," since he was 4.

"Then I heard some good jazz, like Oscar Peterson."

That was it for the Zephyrhills High senior, who got an added thrill when Drexler gave him his phone number and said, "Give me a call sometime."

While John was working it out with the percussion section, Brian Schmidt, 16, and four other trumpet players were getting some help toiling through a four-bar phrase while the sound of a lone saxophone playing Birdland drifted in from another room.

"If you're going to make a mistake, make a big one, a loud one," Chad Shoopman, 29, told the group. "Don't play into the stand. Keep your bells up."

"The lip is not the main thing," said McMillion, who advised the students to sit up straight so they could breathe correctly. "If you're all hunched over, there's no way you can get a breath. It's the air that makes the high notes come out. It's the air that makes your sound."

"It's great that they came out to work with us younger people and tell us how they got good so we can get good," said Brian, a junior at Zephyrhills High School.

Coming out a little early for the kids wasn't a problem for trombone player Keith Oshiro. "It's good to share with the kids. It's good for them to get the experience of working with a professional," said Oshiro, 36, who spent a little time reflecting on his own high school years in Mountain View, Calif.

"I was lucky. My school had a strong jazz program. I'll never forget our band director. Outside of my mother and father, she's been the most inspirational person in my life."

For Raul Magras, 18, an alto sax player from Wesley Chapel High, the highlight of his night was getting up on stage with the orchestra to play Morgan's Organ. His inspiration came with a little prodding from his music teacher, Valerie Gillespie, who also plays saxophone with the Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra.

"Ms. Gillespie told me I had enough experience to do it. She said, "I have faith in you. You can do it.' I was nervous going up," Raul said, "but it was well worth it."