An awful number of magazine articles and blog entries focus on the future of jazz, the aging of the jazz audience, and the popularity of the music in a world of hip hop, electronica, and other newer forms of music. Certainly there are issues to deal with, and certainly other types of music have larger and more youthful audiences, but at least for one day I saw a much more upbeat side to the story.
How good is the music program at Pioneer? Well, in 2006 and again in 2011, Pioneer was selected as THE National GRAMMY Signature School by the Grammy Foundation, making it the number one music program at the high school level in the United States.
While the concert band was great, my interest today was in seeing young and upcoming instrumentalists tackling some of the great pieces of jazz of the 20th century, with outstanding ensemble play as well as some terrific solos by selected members of the band. The jazz band played about a half-dozen songs, highlighted for me by "Four" by Miles Davis, "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" by Duke Ellington, and a rousing finisher in "Manteca" by Dizzy Gillespie. Even with only so-so accoustics in the atrium, it was clear how together the band was, how spirited the players were, and how outstanding were the solos. I took some video but it does not really show the quality of the music; this clip of "Manteca" from an earlier concert -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDCPFFilDX4 -- will give you a better sense of the group.