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Mount Si High jazz band named ‘Best Overall’ in regional competition

Mount Si High School Jazz Band trumpet players Ryan Simpson, a senior, and Stephen Hannah, a junior, play during an early-morning rehearsal session. The band has been a strong competitor in regional contests this semester. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Mount Si High School Jazz Band trumpet players Ryan Simpson, a senior, and Stephen Hannah, a junior, play during an early-morning rehearsal session. The band has been a strong competitor in regional contests this semester.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Mount Si High School has competitive students pushing the envelope in more than just sports.

Musicians in the Mount Si Jazz Band were first-time winners in the ‘best overall’ category at the Viking Jazz Festival, held Feb. 4 and 5 at North Kitsap High School.

At the festival, Mount Si’s Jazz 1 and Jazz 2 programs competed in the preliminaries, aiming to get top-three placing of all the bands in their divisions to move on.

The Jazz 1 band is made up of 17 of the top jazz musicians at Mount Si, who audition for a spot; Jazz 2 are any and all students who want to play jazz. Jazz 1 was in the AAA division while Jazz 2 was in AA.

Both bands successfully scored in the top three in preliminaries, earning a spot for the final performance.

“Our scores from the preliminary were the top average scores,” said Adam Rupert, Mount Si High School jazz and band teacher.

Up against Bellevue and Garfield High Schools for their final performance, each school was given 20 minutes to perform three charts of contrasting styles.

“Typically, your first is mellow to set everybody else up,” Rupert said. “In the second chart, you have to perform the hardest charts ,which are slow songs, ballads and usually feature a soloist. You close with something big and flashy,” Rupert said.

Mount Si High School’s Jazz 2 went up against Bellevue and Garfield’s second bands and took first place and best overall out of all the divisions.

“We’ve placed first before, but in terms of sweepstakes, we haven’t taken best overall — this school’s never done that,” Rupert said.

Thanks to the jazz band’s commitment to rehearsing every morning from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, Rupert said they are a tight unit with a family vibe.

Mount Si’s jazz band did not start competing in jazz festivals until Rupert came into the picture in 2001.

As not all schools in their region take part in competitive jazz festivals, Rupert sees competitions as a way for his students to strive to be better and reach expectations they necessarily didn’t know they had.

Since their involvement in competitions, they’ve competed in a festival in Bellevue as well as Spokane’s Jazz Northwest Festival, where they’ve made finals five years in a row and were unfortunately shut out last year.

“We’re going back this year with a little bit more power. We’re just working harder in the mornings,” Rupert said.

Seeing himself as a coach rather than a teacher, Rupert said most of his students know the basics from middle school. It’s now a matter of motivation, “providing them the possibility of high expectation and what it is to reach that,” he said.

“The sports analogies are all the time, everything we do relates to a sport in one way or another,” Rupert added.

Band members include athletes, AP students and students with part time jobs.

“We’re a very academic-oriented organization,” he said. “It’s always been our mantra — academics first, then music, then sports. It’s kind of one and the same, sports and music. There are obvious differences, but we’re very competitive in nature, and it has it’s rewards.”

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