By Jef Rietsma
Vicksburg Middle School’s music program once again will feature an eighth-grade jazz band.
The district’s board of education at an Oct. 11 meeting granted a request from department chair Ben Rosier seeking funding to buy needed materials for the class.
Rosier said the curriculum proposal is unique; the district has had an eighth-grade jazz band in each of the 15 years he has been with the district. The band feeds into two high school jazz bands.
Jay Bennett has replaced a band teacher who retired in the past year. That led to schedule changes. “We changed the schedule around, so there’s not a band director in the middle school in the afternoon. The eighth-grade jazz band that usually met at the end of the day is no longer because we are now team-teaching marching band,” Rosier said. “We want to add that eighth-grade jazz band offering back into our curriculum, which means we need to include it into our eighth-grade band, normal, everyday class.”
That required a new textbook.The proposal includes the purchase of new workbooks at a total cost of just under $800, Rosier said.
“Each student in eighth-grade band would have a book to work out of, learning improvisatory ideas through music that they already know, but also adding to that in the jazz band world,” Rosier said. “Jazz is kind of like a whole new language in and of itself.”
Rosier said every eighth-grade band member will have to take jazz band, which was previously an elective.
Members of the eighth-grade jazz band program will assemble in March to prepare two pieces for a spring concert as well as marching in the Memorial Day parade.
Rosier said the high school’s top jazz group has established a solid reputation, as it has had an all-state player each of the past 10 years.
Board president Skip Knowles said the cost is a small price to pay for helping kids develop and thrive in a critical area of the fine arts.
“I just can’t say enough about our band program, and the things Ben and the staff have done,” he said. “Anything we can do with the younger kids to promote a love and an interest in jazz coming into the high school is a wonderful thing.”
By Jef Rietsma