8th Grader Information about the
New Trier Jazz Ensemble Program
(The page was
updated on Oct 20, 2009)
This page is designed to
answer the most FREQUENTLY ASKED
QUESTIONS about joining the FRESHMAN JAZZ ENSEMBLE, or being a participant
in the New Trier Jazz Studies program.
question is not answered here, send Mr. Meyer an email and he will answer
it ASAP. EMAIL
If you prefer, call
Mr. Meyer at 847-784-6701 during the school day.
great way to be informed of events and issues related to the jazz studies
area is to JOIN OUR E-MAIL LIST.
New Trier jazz concerts, go to the HOME PAGE
and look down the right margin. There are more than 90 concerts of all types
archived for you to watch. There are about 20 jazz concerts available for
see LIVE or ARCHIVED concerts, you must download REALPLAYER (Free version
Our jazz studies program has been used as a model for many schools,
and is distributed and studied in the Jazz Pedagogy courses at several colleges. To see
our written curriculum as
published in the International Association for Jazz Education, CLICK
jazz curriculum has been copied by high schools all over the country and is
used as a mini-text in jazz pedagogy classes at several colleges.
TO DOWNLOAD A PDF File of the NT Jazz Studies Curriculum
1. How many students participate in the Freshman Jazz
The size of the Freshman Jazz Ensemble has ranged over the years from
20 to 35. A typical size jazz ensemble (such as our other three New Trier
jazz ensembles) has 5 saxes, 4 or 5 trombones, 4 or 5
trumpets, plus the rhythm section. With the exception of rhythm players, we
try to accept everyone into Freshman
Jazz Ensemble who plays trumpet, trombone or saxophone, but auditions
may be necessary if there are too many of a particular instrument to make
the playing experience both musical and worthwhile. When there are auditons,
they are done with a cassette tape. (See below)
How many students are in the NT Jazz Studies Program?
upperclass jazz ensembles each have the more standard instrumentation listed
above. When we add an extra person on each of the rhythm section instruments, the upperclass jazz ensembles
then have approximately 25-30 members.
This means that we have around 100-125 students enrolled in our four curricular jazz
What are the four different New Trier jazz ensembles called, and what are
the course descriptions?
Jazz Ensemble -all freshmen.
Concert Jazz Ensemble
- almost all sophomores with an occasional junior.
Lab Jazz Ensemble
- almost all juniors with a few sophomores or seniors.
Jazz Ensemble I - almost all
seniors with a few juniors and exceptionally advanced sophomores.
Click on each group
above to see a course description and photo.
My son/daughter wants to play in the Freshman Orchestra. Is that an option?
A. There are
no brass, woodwind or percussion players in Freshman Orchestra. It is a
"string only" class. They will have to wait until they come to the
Winnetka campus to get that experience in Concert Orchestra or Symphony
Orchestra. MANY jazz students are in the orchestras.
Are there auditions for pianists, drummers, bass players and guitarists?
A. Sometimes.... it depends on how many of each of these instruments are enrolled
in the class as of mid-April. We can accommodate three pianists, two bassists,
three drummers, and two guitarists. If more than those numbers are enrolled,
then an audition is necessary. Bass players are the least likely to be
auditioned since there are so few.
Why can't you take all the rhythm section players who want to join like you do wind players?
A. Since the
group only performs three or four musical selections per concert, if we take more
rhythm instruments than that, it would mean that a student would go for months
without playing in a concert. There also can be as many as 10 guitarists or
drummers on any given year that want to join Freshman Jazz Ensemble. If we
took everyone and only one drummer can play at a time during rehearsals, a
student might only play once a week! This wouldn't be fair to anyone.
Three is our limit
of pianos we can fit in our rehearsal rooms. The same is true of guitar
amps. We can handle only so many guitarists playing at one time per amplifier
before it is just not a musical experience for anyone.
We believe we accommodate
more students in our jazz program than any public school in the country.
If a rhythm section player does not "make it" for Freshman Jazz
Ensemble, can they re-audition the following year?
A. Absolutely. In
fact, we regularly have four or five students return for consideration in the
Spring for the following school year. Some of these students are
accepted, which keeps the burden on the students who are in the jazz bands
to continue to practice and improve. Above the Freshman level, everyone
re-auditions in the Spring for placement in a jazz ensemble.
Are there auditions for saxophones, trombones or trumpets to get into
Freshman Jazz Ensemble?
A. Sometimes auditions are necessary if there are too many of a particular
instrument to make the performance experience musically and educationally
How would my son or daughter know if they have to have an audition on a
rhythm instrument, and what
would the audition consist of?
you are enrolled in Freshman Jazz Ensemble, if you do not receive a letter
in the mail by May 15th, then no audition will be necessary to stay in the
class. If you are not enrolled then we have no way of knowing about you.
If you do receive a
letter, it will contain all the details regarding the taped audition to be
The audition, if
necessary, will consist of you recording a cassette tape (or CD). A piece of music will be mailed to you that you
will practice and record. (Since this is not an "in-person"
audition, there will be no
sight-reading required. You will also demonstrate your knowledge of
jazz chords and improvisation. Drummers will be asked to demonstrate several
Why are auditions taped and not done in person?
A. We have
used this system for about fifteen years and it seems to work. Before tapes
were required, the in-person auditions caused many students to not do well
because they were nervous. It also was almost impossible to find an evening
when everyone could come to the high school to be auditioned.
A taped audition puts all the variables under
the control of the students. It makes little difference about the quality of
the tape recorder. The most important factors recorded on the tape is style, correct
notes, and correct rhythms. Those items can be evaluated regardless of the
quality of the tape recorder.
What if I do not qualify for Freshman Jazz Ensemble? Will there be time to
change my class registration to another class?
A. This has never
been a problem in the past. Once we get the tapes in early May they are
heard as quickly as possible and a decision is made. You will have plenty of
time to select another class in place of Freshman Jazz Ensemble by
contacting the Freshman Advisor Chairman with whom you have been working.
Q 12. What is the "concurrent enrollment" policy and why does it
As is the
case in the English, Science, Art, and Dance Departments at
and for strictly educational purposes, the Music Department also offers
several courses with a prerequisite that another class (performance
ensemble) be taken concurrently, thus creating a double period. The
concurrent enrollment policy in the Music Department has been the policy in
most of the following classes listed below at New Trier since the 1960s, and
is the norm not only in North Central Suburban schools but also nationally.
Students are not required to participate in the classes that require
concurrent enrollment, but chose to do so out of a desire to receive
additional instruction or a more advanced, well-rounded music education.
Enrollment Requirements in Other New Trier Departments.
in the English Department must also be taken concurrently with the
required English class for that student’s particular year in school.
science classes are double periods.
Art must have a concurrent enrollment with another art class.
Lab requires a double period.
Department Ensembles Requiring a Double Period (Concurrent Enrollment)
in the Symphony or Chamber Orchestras for wind and percussion players
requires students to also be enrolled in a concert band or wind
in the Chamber Orchestra for string players requires students to also
be enrolled in the Symphony
in the Swing Choir requires students to also be enrolled in any other
in any jazz ensemble requires students to also be also enrolled in a
band (for wind and percussion players) or orchestra (for bass players).
Pianists and guitarists are exempt from this requirement since music is
not regularly published or available for those instruments in a band or
A young musician-in-training
learns the basic knowledge of musicianship, balance, blend, large ensemble
repertoire, traditional music notation, performance styles, more advanced
keys, more advanced metric meters, and characteristic tone production in a
large ensemble such as concert band, orchestra, or traditional mixed choral
ensemble. Performance experience in these larger ensembles is critical if a
student is to be considered a well-rounded, well-educated musician upon
Most students at the ninth grade level or later do not know what their major
will be when they attend college and they may not develop an interest in
majoring in music until as late as their senior year. If New Trier allowed a
student to only play/sing in a smaller instrumental or vocal jazz ensemble
and not participate in a concert band/traditional mixed choral ensemble, the
student would neither be prepared for, nor accepted into a reputable music
school after high school.
skills unique to jazz, such as improvisation or playing with the jazz
inflection associated with vocal or instrumental jazz music, are not usually
or best taught in large ensembles. Therefore, a jazz ensemble or Swing
Choir is a smaller performance ensemble that focuses on specialized
instruction rather than the development of the basic skills listed above.
Participating in a jazz ensemble or Swing
Choir has the students take the basic skills they learn in a large
ensemble to those smaller groups to adapt those skills to performance in a
jazz style. Thus, to allow a student to only be in a jazz ensemble and not
be concurrently enrolled in a concert band or orchestra (for bass players)
would be similar to someone taking only “elective” classes and never
enrolling in the more traditional academic subjects. Jazz performance is
considered by music educators to be an optional extra skill open to a
student who is already a well-rounded music student. There are differences
in the actual music studied by jazz groups and larger concert bands. For
example, music played in instrumental jazz groups is almost always written
using just three or four key signatures. Concert band or orchestral music
regularly uses all twelve major or minor keys. Also, jazz music
performed at the high school level seldom uses rhythms more advanced than
eighth notes or eighth rests. Concert band or orchestral music regularly
uses rhythms written with sixteenth notes or faster.
is the primary class for string players who wish to develop ensemble
performance skills for developing mastery of the orchestral repertoire for
their own enjoyment or a possible career in music. For
a string player to have a complete understanding of their instrument in the
context of music history, playing in an orchestra is essential for their
development. It is then necessary for the development of the orchestral
string player to receive a “full orchestra” experience as part of their
formative education. The string players in Chamber
Orchestra are the more advanced members of Symphony
Orchestra who elect to take to take this course in addition to Symphony Orchestra because the repertoire that is studied in Chamber
Orchestra represents a unique type of repertoire that is limited to the
particular instrumentation as commonly defined by a chamber orchestra.
In other words, just as a jazz ensemble or swing choir
performs a narrower or specialized type of repertoire, a Chamber
Orchestra also studies a more narrow type of repertoire within the
symphonic tradition which goes beyond the repertoire they would study in Symphony Orchestra.
Orchestra classes provide an additional opportunity for wind and
percussion players, but traditional orchestral music often requires them to
perform less frequently during a particular piece of music (or rehearsal)
than they would when playing a piece of music studied by a concert band or
wind ensemble. In fact, time in an orchestra class is often spent teaching
and developing the string section rather than teaching fundamental wind or
percussion performance skills that are more readily taught in a concert
band. Therefore, while a wind and percussion player can elect to enrich
their ensemble experience by participating in an orchestra ensemble, they
must be concurrently enrolled in a band or wind ensemble to learn
fundamental skills and band repertoire.
Q 13. Can
a flute (or clarinet) player join Freshman Jazz Ensemble?
The short answer is yes and
no. Yes, if that person also plays saxophone, and no, if that person only plays
the flute (or clarinet). The reason is that published music for jazz ensembles of
ninth grade ability level almost never have flute parts. If there are flute
parts they are played by members of the saxophone section.
At the junior
high school level it is common for directors to take everyone who wants to
play in a jazz ensemble. This could include clarinetists, oboists, etc. At the high school level it is the norm for those players to also play
(or double on) saxophone. In fact, before a saxophone player can even be considered for our
Jazz Ensemble I they must be able to play either the clarinet or flute in
addition to mastering their saxophone. Colleges regularly require
saxophonists to double on another woodwind instrument before they will be
allowed to audition for a jazz ensemble. Saxophonists who double on another
woodwind instrument are better prepared for post-high school success.
can a student schedule BOTH Freshman Jazz Ensemble and Freshman Concert
New Trier has a nine-period day, it is easy to find time to schedule two music
classes, especially if you take four "majors." Students who
take five "majors" may need to go to summer school or
take an "Early Bird" class at some point while at New Trier. There are numerous students who have
three and even four music classes during the day. With parent
permission you can even schedule a class during your lunch period. In fact, many
students eat lunch while in a Concert Wind Ensemble, Concert
or Symphony Orchestra, or Concert Jazz Ensemble. These classes
are specifically scheduled during lunch periods so students can participate
in two music classes if they wish to.
Can Freshman Jazz Ensemble be taken as a "major"?
A. Yes. You may either register for
FJE as a "major"
now, or next Fall. The advantage to taking it as a "major" is
that the grade in the class will count toward your grade point average. If
you are someone who practices hard and likes to work on getting your music
as perfect as possible, then being taking it as a "major" would be
a good idea for you. If "close is good enough" is your motto...
then DON'T take Freshman Jazz Ensemble as a "major."
How hard is it to be a "Major" in Freshman Jazz Ensemble?
A. Anyone in
any performance-based music class at New Trier that is a major has the same
requirements. Each semester you have to select two of the following three
activities to do in addition to the regular course work of practicing your
Attend two concerts a semester and write a review of those concerts. One of
those concerts can be a New Trier concert. At least one concert MUST be seen
off-campus. Both must relate to jazz.
2. Play in front of the class a brief recital. This will
consist of two selections out of our class textbook (Jazz Conception by
James Snider), accompanied by the CD that comes with the text book.
3. Work with Mr. Warrick to design a "special
project" for presentation to the class. This will need to be
At least one JAZZ
TRANSCRIPTION must be done a year for students who take a jazz ensemble as a
"major". More than one can be done if the student wishes.
Does it help you achieve enrollment in a more advanced band if you are a
A. While you
will certainly learn things by being a "major" that you would not
learn otherwise, being a "major" in itself will have no bearing on
your placement when it comes time to decide if you will continue in the jazz
program. Only become a "major" if you don't mind a little extra
work, and you want another "major."
How hard is the music in Freshman Jazz Ensemble? How much will I have to practice to keep up?
The difficulty of the music depends on the ability of the students in
any given year. In general, we begin the year with "grade 3" music
similar to what you played in junior high school. As the year progresses our
goal is to perform at least one "grade 4" selection on the Spring Jazz
If you are someone who likes to practice your instrument and
you were successful at playing the music performed at your junior high
school, then you will be very successful at New Trier in the Music Department. A
person who doesn't practice outside of class time will not be successful in
ANY school music group ANYWHERE. Natural talent will only take a young player so far. Home
practice helps a student to not only keep up, but excel... thus having more
fun and contributing to advancement of the entire group!
How good of a player should a person be to join the Freshman Jazz
A. The most important
traits of a successful member in any New Trier music ensemble is a positive
attitude with a willingness to learn (teachable) and try new musical concepts. Students with
outstanding performance abilities will not succeed if they do not have a
positive, helpful, and teachable attitude.
Having said that...
a student will be required to practice at home. The music that is performed
in our groups is just too difficult to learn only in class. Home practice
and the help of a private teacher will go far to being successful in the New
Trier Music Department.
By the middle of
the first quarter, most students in past Freshman Jazz Ensembles practiced
five or six times a week, and probably thirty minutes per practice session. Many
students who did not practice much in junior high school find themselves to
be more motivated at high school and raise their quantity and quality of
Q 20. Is
it required that I be broadcast on TV/RADIO and the Internet if I am a
member of a New Trier Jazz Ensemble?
Yes. All New Trier performance groups are video taped for
broadcast. All concerts are broadcast live on the Internet and most are live
on cable television/radio. It is an important part of our
curriculum that you experience the "real world" of performing
before cameras and microphones. It also allows you to review your
performances at home, and your friends and family far away can see you
Are there afterschool or evening rehearsals for New Trier jazz ensembles?
Never! (period) We have plenty of time during the school day to
perfect our music assuming you PRACTICE AT HOME.
How many concerts are there each year?
We have three major concerts a year. The Fall Jazz Concert is
usually the first or second Friday in December; the New Trier Jazz
is usually the first Saturday in February; and the Spring Jazz
Concert is always the second or third Friday in April.
Attendance at these
concerts is required for successful participation. In fact, according to
longstanding music department policy, a student who
has an unexcused absence from a concert will have their quarter grade
lowered. Concerts are our "laboratory" or "final exams" and these experiences (or
experiments) can never be replicated in the classroom. A complete performance schedule is
distributed the first week of class in all music groups.
There may be
additional performances added, but each will be done so with a considerable
amount of class discussion and advanced notice.
Future performance will be very similar to the
ones scheduled for the current school year. CLICK
does Freshman Jazz Ensemble rehearse?
A. We rehearse
every school day for one 40-minute period during "third
period." We have no conflicts with before or
after school clubs or sports. In fact, many of the members of New Trier's
jazz ensembles are very successful members of the school's sports teams, or
If my child decides not to take Freshman Jazz Ensemble, but decides he wants to take
jazz in his sophomore year, will he or she be able to get in and will he be with
the sophomore band or will he have to take it with the Freshman Jazz
A. If a student improves and is equal in talent to his/her Freshman jazz peers who
were in Freshman Jazz Ensemble, they could be in the
sophomore jazz ensemble (Concert Jazz Ensemble) when they become a sophomore. This is
less likely if the student plays drums or guitar since we regularly have too many of those instruments
who enroll in each year's Freshman Jazz
Ensemble. It will be much less of a problem for a trumpet or
trombone player to join as a Sophomore.
The short answer is...
it is far better to start out in the jazz program as a Freshman than to join
later since we learn a LOT of very important basic skills in Freshman
Jazz Ensemble that can't be learned outside of class.
What is Music Improvisation class?
A. This is a
one-afternoon-a-week, afterschool class that focuses on learning how to
improvise music in a jazz style. Anyone who plays any instrument can enroll.
A student can enroll in that class during the first quarter. It does not
perform in any concerts during the first semester, but does have at least
one public performance during second semester. To read more
information about this class, CLICK.
What is SOUNDTRAKS?
A. This is a
student-run club that video and audio records all of New Trier's concerts.
Students have access to, and learn how to operate a 48-track digital
recorder, an 8-camera video switcher, and a digital, non-linier video
editing computer system called the MEDIA 100. The main
studio for SOUNDTRAKS is located on the third floor of the Music Building at the Winnetka
campus. There is also a
recording studio at the Northfield campus located under the auditorium.
What is the value in participating in a high school music ensemble?
A. You might find
these two links interesting...
28. I am a guitarist and mostly play by TAB rather than reading music. Is
that a problem.?
A. This will be a
huge problem. TAB is NOT music and anyone's ability to succeed in a musical
organization such as Freshman Jazz Ensemble is based on your ability to read
music. We strongly suggest only taking lessons from a private guitar
teacher than will not allow you to play by TAB.
What is the New Trier High School Jazz Festival (now called the
Frank Mantooth Jazz Festival at New Trier High School)?
I am glad you asked. CLICK