If you are currently registered for Freshman Jazz Ensemble for the 2011 - 2012 school year, please fill out this brief online form. This will help me collect information about our instrumentation for next year and will allow me to determine whether or not we will need to hold auditions. Thank you for your prompt attention to this!Freshman Jazz Ensemble Online Form
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.
If your 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.
A great way to be informed of events and issues related to the jazz studies area is to JOIN OUR E-MAIL LIST.
Q 1. How many students participate in the Freshman Jazz Ensemble?
A. 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)
Q 2. How many students are in the NT Jazz Studies Program?
A. The 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 ensembles.
Q 3. 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.
Q 4. 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.
Q 6. 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.
Q 7. 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 worthwhile.
Q 9. 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?
A. Assuming 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 mailed in.
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 jazz styles.
Q 10. 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.
Q 11. 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
A. As is the case in the English, Science, Art, and Dance Departments at New Trier High School 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.
Concurrent Enrollment Requirements in Other New Trier Departments.
Music Department Ensembles Requiring a Double Period (Concurrent Enrollment)
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 leaving New Trier High School .
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.
Performance 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.
Orchestra 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.
Symphony and Chamber 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?
A. 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
A. Since 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.
Q 15. 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."
Q 16. 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 part.
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. Meyer to design a "special project" for presentation to the class. This will need to be jazz-related.
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.
Q 17. Does it help you achieve enrollment in a more advanced band if you are a "Major"?
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?
A. 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 Concert.
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!
Q 19. How good of a player should a person be to join the Freshman Jazz Ensemble?
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 home practice.
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?
A. 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 perform.
Are there afterschool or evening rehearsals for New Trier jazz ensembles?
A. 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?
A. We have three major concerts a year. The Fall Jazz Concert is usually the first or second Friday in December; the New Trier Jazz Festival 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
Q 23. When 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 afterschool activities.
Q 24. 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 Ensemble?
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.
Q 25. 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.
Q 26. 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.
Q 27. What is the value in participating in a high school music ensemble?
Q 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.
Q 29. What is the New Trier High School Jazz Festival (now called the Frank Mantooth Jazz Festival at New Trier High School)?
A. I am glad you asked. CLICK