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If you like New Orleans jazz, youll be dancing in the aisles

by: , Playing at a recent festival are some members of the West Linn High School Jazz Ensemble: in back, Toby Reutter-Harrah on drums, saxophone players, from left, Emma Davis, Michael Biancardi, Hailey Niswanger, Carson McLeod and Ryan Nesbit. At their April 18 fund-raising concert, the entire jazz ensemble will open for the headline act: the Brass Monkey Brass Band from San Francisco.

Keeping music education strong is a meaningful goal, and no one would agree more than Phil Brooks and his son, Kyle, who both play the trombone.

Kyle leads the trombone section in the West Linn High School Jazz Ensemble, and will play alongside his father this week and next in the district's middle school musical - his father's fourth year in the musical's pit orchestra.

In fact the whole Brooks family would support music education in every way possible. Kyle's mother, Lori, plays the piano, his sister, Holly, sings in the Wilsonville High School choir and his grandmother played the tuba in a town band years ago.

In place of the annual fund-raising Jazz Night, with its food, frivolity and auctions, this year the instrumental music department has produced a concert that Music Director Jeff Cumpston says will 'knock your socks off.'

And the whole point of the affair, Cumpston and all of the Brookses say, is to ensure that enough students and parents understand the importance of pursuing and promoting music education.

With some numbers of music students in middle schools dwindling, Cumpston and some music student parents are concerned for the future of the educational program.

'This concert will raise some funds,' Cumpston admitted, 'but the emphasis is more on recruiting kids into the band program beginning at the middle school level - and keeping them in the band program through high school.

'(With this concert) we want to get kids fired up about playing band instruments.'

The concert will not only put the spotlight on some of their elder peers (the WLHS jazz ensemble), but also will feature a professional group with a distinctive New Orleans flavor.

The Brass Monkey Brass Band is coming to West Linn from its home base of San Francisco to show off its animated New Orleans style of

funky jazz.

The motivation to join the action and be a part of a musical group in middle and high school will certainly blossom when the brass band's musicians play in the aisles of the WLHS performing arts center.

Their brand of toe-tappin' hand-clapping and knee-slappin' music is likely to draw some of the dancers in the audience out into the aisles.

But the April 18 concert will begin with a select few, members of a jazz combo at the high school that is coached by Tim Rap.

Following that 10-minute set, the award winning WLHS Jazz Ensemble will show its versatility and talent with a 30-minute set to get the audience warmed up for the evening's highlight.

All of this will be recorded live for the department's annual compact disc of recorded music.

After an intermission for dessert and refreshments in the lobby, the Brass Monkey Brass Band will turn the house upside-down with music that will remind local residents of Mardi Gras.

But Phil Brooks, who manages the program's Web site and has led the organization of this event, as well as Cumpston, who is leaving WLHS at year's end, are hoping that kids and parents will get excited about being part of the action.

In recent years, competition for a limited number of class periods with an increasing number of academic classes has had a negative effect on enrollment in music classes - especially at middle school, where it has been difficult to keep a director.

Even though Cumpston fears the worst, he is happy that the two middle schools in West Linn now have solid band directors - Laura Arthur at Athey Creek and Brant Stai at Rosemont Ridge.

'I fear that when I leave (in July) there's going to be some fallout,' Cumpston said. 'And there are schedule conflicts that make it more and more difficult for kids to find room in their schedules for band.

'As a result, my numbers are down this year. For a community like this, we should have a huge band program.'

The current WLHS student population in the various aspects of instrumental music totals about 100, Cumpston said.

When he looks at one of the middle schools that feed his program and sees fewer than 10 students, he begins to worry.

Next week, he and his students and some of their parents will put the program on stage and in the spotlight.

'I need to impress on youngsters that band is cool, band is fun and band is an awesome part of their education,' Cumpston said, 'and that parents can really benefit from their kids being involved in these programs.'

He gets no argument from Brooks, who says Kyle has really blossomed from his introduction to music in the sixth grade.

'The music program has really helped to define Kyle's high school career,' his father said. 'It gives him a social center in the school and a place where his talents and unique outlook are respected.

'He is a very strong student at West Linn - taking many AP classes as well as the early-morning jazz ensemble and symphonic band.'

Next week, several members of the jazz ensemble will visit the district's primary schools, play their instruments and talk to kids about their love for music.

Then, during school hours April 18, the Brass Monkey Brass Band will make brief stops at two middle schools and one primary school to raise the interest level and inspire kids to enjoy playing music.

And perhaps come to that evening's concert.

'We just want to get kids excited about playing music,' Cumpston said. 'And when they see how much fun it is, they'll also realize that it is an important part of their overall education.'

Keep Music Education Strong

What: band concert with West Linn High School musicians, directed by Jeff Cumpston, as well as the Brass Monkey Brass Band from San Francisco.

When: April 18 at 7 p.m.

Where: on stage at the West Linn High School performing arts center.

Why: to put the spotlight on student musicians, increase motivation in young people to pursue music as a class and to raise funds to supplement music education in West Linn.

Tickets: available on-line at http://cumpston.tix.com or at the door for $10 for adults and $5 at the door for accompanied children under 12.

More information: visit the Web site at www.cumpston.us or for information on the headliner visit www.brassmonkeybrassband.com.