In the past eight years, Dalles High School brought bands to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival three times, said the high school’s music director, Paul Viemeister.
He said the last two years he brought the Riverhawk Jazz Ensemble to the festival to perform and learn from the workshops and seminars offered at the festival.
“The kids really got a positive feeling about coming out to Lionel Hampton and learning some things that they’d never heard before or seen before,” he said. “So they wanted to come back this year, especially to the 50th.”
The band performed at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, Feb. 25 in the Janssen Engineering Building.
Oscar Ortiz, a trombone player in the band and senior at Dalles, said this is his second time coming to the festival.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Overall it’s pretty good — a lot of different varieties of music.”
Viemeister said his first experience taking a band to the festival eight years ago went well, and students expressed interest in returning. However, since then the high school hasn’t participated in the festival — with the exception of this year and last year.
Viemeister said this was in part because the theater program needed to be rebuilt, which impacted what he could do with the band. He said another reason is the bands the past two years have performed exceptionally well.
“They really enjoy playing difficult music, want to play difficult music and they enjoy playing together as a group, which is really important,” he said.
He said he is not afraid to challenge his students and believes they will become better because of it. He said he feels the workshops and seminars at the festival will also help improve them musically.
“It gives them perspective on what they do, and it helps me too, as a teacher,” he said.
This year, there were more vocal and dance workshops than the previous year. Viemeister said many of his students attended these, including a French foreign exchange student who is neither in choir or band. He said she has an interest in creating a career as a musician, and attended workshops that gave tips on how to do just that.
A Riverhawk Jazz Ensemble piano player, sophomore Nathan Nanez, said he is also a dancer at a dance academy in Dalles, where he does tap and jazz.
“I love the options that they provide here, class-wise,” he said. “I’ve mainly gone to the dancing ones because I like dancing.”
rock bandNanez said this is his first year at the festival.
Viemeister said in addition to providing students with the opportunity to attend the festival, the school’s music program also includes classes such as street drumming and “rock band”, or Music X. He said the programs are aimed at students not in band or choir who want to perform musically, and sometimes help get students to take other music classes.
“They pick out the music, they pick out the musicians, they establish a rehearsal, a rehearsal schedule and they continue in that genre for the semester, and at the end of the semester they do concerts,” he said.
He said the music they play is rock or more contemporary music. Sometimes, if a group is doing exceptionally well, they will perform multiple times a semester, he said.
“I talk to local places, I say ‘would you be interested?’” he said. “And so I give (the students) this experience of being able to perform in public and perform in a gig type of scenario, where they’ll actually get paid to play.”
Viemeister said the jazz band may return to the festival next year.
Nina Rydalch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org