Reno 2018 Formal medOur High School Big Band won 4th place in the AAAA division at the Reno Jazz Festival!! Sr. Vibes player Gus Hurteau, Jr. Pianist Luis Peralta and Freshman Trombonist Oliver Tuttle were given outstanding soloist honors, and our Sr. Trombonist Matthew Duldulao was given the award for Best Soloist-Trombone for the entire festival. This marked the first time OSA has been to the RJF, and what a way to hit the scene! The Reno festival is in it's 56th year and is a right of passage for any jazz program. I was there in 1983 & 1984 with Berkeley High and my classmates including Joshua Redman! Our trip was successful in no small part to our parent chaperones, along with Mr. Anseth and the indispensable, incredible Ms. Jones!

The festival competition is broken down into divisions according to size of school (and I believe size of school district). Although we only have 450 kids in high school at OSA we were placed in the AAAA division because we are an arts school in a large district. That meant we were competing against the "Big Boys", high schools with 2000 kids or more, many with very old and established jazz programs that rehearse 5 days a week and often have plenty of funding, and students who all take private lessons. Not only did we hold our own but we placed 4th overall in AAAA in a 15 band field! The three bands that placed ahead of us are all prior winners of the festival and perennial top 3 performers (Clovis came in 3rd, and they're the High School that beat me in my Sr. year at BHS in 1984!!). Adfter the performance we had comment and a clinic from Dave Loeb, pianist for The Family Guy! He was glowing and so were the kids. The whole trip was magical.

I can't overstate what an absolutely incredible accomplishment this is. It is not a fluke either, this is because of the incredible hard work and commitment of these students. The majority of the IM faculty was hired in 2014 to raise the level of the department overall. With the Middle School I implemented the training given to my by legendary Berkeley High School director Phil Hardymon. They are the current 9th grade class. The 9th graders when we began then are Seniors now. It is a testament to what can be accomplished in a short time with the right administrative support, parental support, and training. 

This year we have crushed our goals: Get an Overall Superior rating at the CMEA Northgate Jazz Festival, and place (and find a way to fund the trip) at the Reno Jazz Festival. I could not be any more proud of these players. I will say that in order to facilitate these trips, Reno in particular, I had to personally front over $4,500 to reserve busses and hotels, and to feed the kids. I'd love to have a little more help with this in the future because it isn't a sustainable model, for sure.

Onward and Upward, we will swing!

Mr. Ellis