Community High School at the Ark

The young musicians from Ann Arbor’s Community High School Jazz program under director Jack Wagner presented a program of jazz classics at The Ark on May 21. I was there for the first half of the program, featuring five well-rehearsed bands. The crowd was full of family members, CHS staff and classmates giving full support to their swinging friends on the bandstand aided by the usual skilled Ark lighting and sound mix.

Wagner served as emcee as each of the three jazz lab groups did three tunes each, followed by the more experienced ensembles Trip the Light Fantastic and So Fly Zone, winner of the 2018 Downbeat Student Music Awards for Small Jazz Combo. The highlights for me were vocalist Maddie Jelic singing “Just the Way You Look Tonight” and “I Know You Know,” and the intense rendition of “Fables of Faubus” by Trip the Light Fantastic. Also, the set by So Fly Zone showed how much they have worked to hone their ability to jam on “Shofukan” by Snarky Puppy, and move slowly and beautifully through Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.”

There is no doubt that under the direction of Jack Wagner, jazz students and their families in the Ann Arbor Public Schools are benefitting greatly through the CHS jazz program, and the future for this great music looks very bright.

photograph by Barton Polot