Reynolds hits all the right notes at annual instrumental jazz festival

Walt Morey Middle wins Sweepstakes award

Three bands from the Reynolds School District earned high honors at the 36th Annual Instrumental Jazz Festival Friday, March 16, and Saturday, March 17, at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City.

The Jazz Band from Walt Morey Middle School in Troutdale won the festival's Sweepstakes Trophy for Most Outstanding Performance, beating out 51 other middle school and high school bands from Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Meanwhile, two bands from Reynolds High School in Troutdale also earned high honors. The school's Band In Black took first place in the 4A High School Category. Reynolds' Jazz Lab Band took second place in the 3A High School Category.

Gary Nelson, a part-time music instructor at the college and a competition judge since the festival's inception, said he could recall less than a handful of other middle school bands like Walt Morey winning the Sweepstakes Trophy over the years.

'Their performance was quite spectacular for a middle school band,' he said.

Each competing band received a critique following its first performance, he said, and the Walt Morey band was distinguished by its response to the critique.

'Their subsequent performance demonstrated careful adherence to the critique,' he said.

The Walt Morey band also took first place in the Junior High/Middle School Division. Danny Hunt, the band's director, said he was proud of the young students' efforts.

'They work extremely hard,' he said. 'There's a high level of musicianship.'

The Walt Morey band performed 'Don't Get Sassy' by Thad Jones; 'I Remember Clifford' by Benny Golson; and 'Manteca' by Dizzy Gillespie, Hunt said.

Six members of the band received soloist awards: Jake Bangerter, eighth grade, trumpet; Lane Evans, sixth grade, tenor saxophone; Sylvia Vannoy, eighth grade, vibraphone; Julio Villalpando, eighth grade, drums; Andy Jacobs, eighth grade, trumpet; and Emma Felzien, eighth grade, alto saxophone.

Reynolds' Band In Black performed tunes by Gordon Goodwin and Maynard Ferguson, and the Jazz Lab Band performed a variety of swing tunes, said Ben Brooks, Band In Black director.

Individual Outstanding Jazz Musician Awards were won by the following Band In Black members: Scott Drake, senior, tenor saxophone; Craig Mack, junior, baritone saxophone; Lauren Wagner, senior, alto saxophone; Nick Nera, junior, trumpet; and Chris Jennes, senior, trap (drum) set.

Outstanding Jazz Musician Awards were won by the following Jazz Lab Band members: Taylor Long, sophomore, trap set; Brian Hales, sophomore, guitar; and Andrew Wagner, freshman, tenor saxophone.

'It was kind of a pretty good day for the Reynolds School District,' Brooks said.

Allan Mair, Jazz Lab Band director and the school's music coordinator, said a strong music program characterizes the Reynolds district.

'We have such a great program from feeder schools through the high school,' Mair said. 'They're great kids, enthusiastic kids. We have great district support and parent support as well.'

Mair said competition helps the young musicians hone their skills.

'It's such a wonderful opportunity for them, not only to perform what they've worked on, but it's fun for the kids to put themselves in perspective with the jazz programs of the entire Northwest,' he said.

However, he said that he and Brooks aren't just trying to fill the school's music trophy cases.

'It's not about the trophies,' Mair said. 'It's about playing your very best. If you do that, the trophies tend to follow.'

Rob Cullivan can be reached at 503-492-5116 or at rcullivan@the