Editor’s note: This is the third story in a series that highlights Beavercreek Weekend of Jazz.
BEAVERCREEK — A handful of Beavercreek High School jazz band students — representing their school’s four ensembles — agree that years from now, they’ll look back and remember one particularly awesome weekend.
By now, they’re accustomed to the annual festival — Beavercreek Weekend of Jazz (WOJ), which will be held Thursday-Saturday, March 1-3 in their auditorium — and the students from around the state that consequently come to play, and learn, and listen to jazz greats.
“You get to see and meet people from other jazz bands that you’d never talk to otherwise. So it’s a cool experience — to see other groups run their jazz band and how they like to do things,” Levi Hancock, who plays saxophone in Jazz 1, said.
Hancock said he has been attending the event since sixth grade. WOJ that same year led him to meet David Manguiat, his now-best friend and a Jazz 1 trombone player.
“There was just a lot of excitement in watching these incredible performers come and inspire us as musicians because at this point we had just started playing our instruments,” Manguiat said. “So being in this environment where these professionals are doing something that’s incredible — it’s like seeing someone that’s really good at one thing and you just appreciate how great they are at that thing — it was that entire atmosphere.”
“And it wasn’t just the headlining performers,” he added, “it was also seeing these students hanging out with their friends and just having a blast. And now I’m jamming with my friends in a jazz combo just for fun.”
Both Hancock and Manguiat are excited to jam, but are also especially excited for this year’s headliners, Victor Wooten Trio and Dave Liebman Big Band, who will take the stage on Friday and Saturday night.
“To think that such a big name that people recognize in the jazz world is coming to Beavercreek, Ohio — just to work with us — I think that’s magical,” Hancock said.
“With Victor Wooten coming in, as one of the biggest bass players known worldwide, we’re definitely going to be having people come from far away just to see him — which isn’t a new thing,” Manguiat said. “So to be in this community is such an opportunity and a privilege.”
Sara Caltabellotta, a Jazz 2 student who will experience WOJ from an on-stage perspective for the first time, said the bands practice twice a week for about two hours each time in preparation for the festival.
“I’m excited because it’s a new experience for me,” she said.
According to Tim Sakulich, WOJ director, the mission of the program is an educational one — to expose students and the community to jazz.
“There’s always something new and interesting to learn about the art form,” Sakulich said. “The opportunity to get feedback from professional artists on their playing is a great feature in this program for our students. They get a lot out of that.”
The boys admit that performing on stage, followed by receiving feedback — this year from Victor Wooten — is intimidating at first.
“You’re like, ‘Oh, they’re going to judge me, they’re so good.’ But then once they start talking, they’re super friendly and you realize they started in the same place that you did — probably playing when they were a teenager, as a kid, then they just really developed their skills to get better,” Hancock said.
Manguiat continued, “When those people end up talking to you I think more than anything it’s inspiring … it’s inspiring to see someone that good to be able to give you advice on how you can be better and how you can reach not just your potential but how you can grow as a musician and, in a lot of cases, a person.”
Sakulich said the appreciation goes both ways, impacting the audience as well.
“In the audience — most of us parents aren’t musicians. Our kids go learn at school and practice at home. We get to witness the interactive critique and evaluation of the students, then listen to students attempt sections of the piece. That’s really fun,” he said. “It brings the audience into the process more than just sitting and watching. They’re invested in the whole experience of learning.”
The students agree with Sakulich; their very own high school auditorium comes alive each year with an energy that is contagious.
“It’s really cool to have that type of experience,” Manguiat said, “of just pure, absolute jazz.”
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.