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Highly talented, musically versatile big band ensemble

2018_6_8 Jazz Under the Stars (25).jpg
2018_6_8 Jazz Under the Stars (24).jpg

Jazz Band

The Mission Viejo High School Jazz Band is comprised of musicians from all grade levels who audition to earn a place in this highly-talented band of approximately twenty players. Most of the students also participate in one or more of the other MVHS Instrumental Music Ensembles such as Marching Band and/or Concert Ensembles. Jazz performances move beyond the traditional stage to also Include a cabaret-style Jazz Night In December called Jazz Cafe and Jazz under the Stars In June. At these and other performances, the Jazz Band plays a variety of jazz, including swing, Latin, modern and many "big band" standards. Much of the music played approaches college level in its complexity.


For many years, the Jazz Band auditioned to participate in the Next Generation Jazz Festival held in the spring in Monterey, California. Almost annually, the MVHS Jazz Band had been selected to compete against the twelve other high schools, judged to be the best in the nation, at this highly prestigious National Festival. The Next Generation Jazz Festival was a wonderful opportunity for our students to meet fellow musicians and hear some of the best in high school jazz. Sadly, the Next Generation Jazz Festival shut down in 2020 and has yet to be revived. The Jazz Band also participates annually at the Irvine Jazz Festival showcasing high school jazz bands from Riverside, Los Angeles, and Orange counties. MVHS parents, friends, and the community are encouraged to attend and witness the extraordinary performances of our next generation of jazz musicians. 


The MVHS Jazz band is also invited to perform at the "Friends of Jazz" concert series in early Spring.  The Friends of Jazz was founded as a non-profit in 1999 and their mission is to assure the continued growth and development of jazz performance, appreciation and education.  The motto " Keeping Music in the Schools" continues to be their guiding force.  Prior to their performance date, students are invited to fill out a scholarship form.  During the performance, not only are the students exposed to more of a jazz club atmosphere, but one student may be surprised with a scholarship donated by the Friends of Jazz to help further their music education.

  • How do auditions work?
    There is an audition packet that can be picked outside the band room office STARTING THE VERY FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. The packet is specific for each instrument, and in it contains two pieces to perform during the audition. They are bebop heads, and also have the chord changes above the line. Horn players can improvise on either of the two tunes. Improvisation is not required, although is highly encouraged in order to receive feedback, and have a higher chance of making it into the ensemble. Horn players sign up for an exact time slot when they pick up the packet. Rhythm section players audition all together in all combinations of players. Piano and guitar players learn several voicings for each chord and the goal is interact with each other. Piano and guitar players should also play the written line to each tune. At the audition we are looking for competence in comping, and improvising, and interaction between players. Bass players and drummers also be prepared to invent funk and Latin grooves at the audition.
  • Are all of the positions open?
    Yes, all positions are open. Being in the band the year before does not give a player seniority of any kind. The best players at the audition are the ones who make the band.
  • How long is an audition?
    Auditions are no longer than 7 minutes for horn players. Each player plays the tunes first in unison with the teacher, then alone, and then with a backing track. Improvisation is to a backing track of one of the two pieces. The rhythm section plays all together for approximately 40 minutes, including a combination of players.
  • How do I prepare for an audition?
    There is over a week to practice the content. Start by learning the melodies slowly and get them under your fingers correctly. Then speed them up. Search YouTube for recordings and performances of these tunes. Observe interaction, transcribe solos, come to tutorial for help, or ask your private teacher for help.
  • How many bands are there?
    If there are enough players for a second rhythm section, we make a smaller band with that rhythm section and various horn players. That jazz combo performs at the fall concert and also the Irvine jazz festival and the spring jazz concert. That rhythm section is encouraged to be the rhythm section for the jazz improvisation class. Generally speaking, we may have 1 big band and up to 2 combos each year. The combos can have up to three or four horn players, and the top combo gets to choose their own material and schedule. Sometimes the rhythm section audition does not show a clear best player. In that case we will take two and have them split time. This is not ideal for either player. If both players are weak, then we re-audition after a semester. If both players are strong both stay in the band. There is always room for a good player.
  • How do I get into jazz improvisation class?
    If you demonstrate strong interest, there is a place in improvisation class for you. Becoming a jazz player takes much more practice time than any other ensemble, or any form of music for that matter. There are two sets of players divided by ability and experience. During the class sessions we spend a lot of time playing and trading, and most players get much better quickly. If someone is not practicing, it becomes obvious right away. It takes a small amount of talent and a huge amount of belief in practice. A student can do improv class every year and many have. If you want to get good, nothing will help you more than participating in these sessions.
  • What kind of music do the big-band and combos play?
    The big band plays music from the giants of that idiom. Music from the bands of Thad Jones, Basie, Herman, Kenton, Buddy Rich, Maria Schneider, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, etc. In other words, we play music written for professionals and steeped in tradition. This music rarely has any written notes or voicings for piano, bass, or guitar--chord symbols only. Combos play from lead sheet style notation ("realbook") which have a melody with chord symbols above. Arrangements are informal and created on the fly or through discussion or emulation.
  • What is the jazz schedule?
    Fairly complicated because we need to work around the master schedule, and also in the months of September, October, and November, around the marching band schedule. Jazz band is a 7th period class, which means that that it meets by arrangement. For the first 3 months the big band schedule is: Monday: Long session 2:15 till 4:15 - If a student has a different 7th period class, they miss the first 50 minutes Tuesday - Before marching band, 3:30 - 4:45 Thursday: After marching band, 3:30 to 4:30 Wednesday and Friday: We do not meet
  • Does jazz conflict with sports?
    Yes, it does conflict with some sports. Some coaches are very good about splitting time with Jazz Band, while some aren't at all. It depends on the coach. The jazz schedule automatically allows the student to be at the sport more than they miss the sport.
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