The Jazz Ensemble experience at Ridgewood High School is organized into a two-part sequence which provides students with the opportunity to learn about and perform jazz music - the only truly American art form. Both large performance ensembles, the RHS Big Band and the RHS Jazz Lab provide students with opportunities to learn to play in a variety of styles ranging from swing to Latin jazz and rock. The Big Band is for more experienced jazz musicians while the Jazz Lab focuses primarily on building performance skills in the jazz style. Both groups also provide instruction in improvisation.
Both the Big Band and Jazz Lab perform music written for standard jazz ensemble instrumentation - 5 saxophones, 4 trombones, 4 trumpets, piano, guitar, bass and drums. Changes to this instrumentation may be made on a year-by-year basis, depending on the specific needs of selections. In addition to weekly ensemble rehearsals, each member of the Big Band must attend weekly sectionals, which are scheduled according to the availability of the students and the section instructor.
Any student enrolled in a curricular music class is eligible to audition for a jazz ensemble. Auditions are held in October and early November and are judged blindly. All auditioning students receive a judge's critique sheet following auditions. Both jazz ensembles rehearse mainly on Tuesday evenings from mid-November until the end of May.
Both jazz ensembles typically perform in one concert event at RHS, a Jazz Coffeehouse with the middle school jazz bands, the annual Jazz dinner concert, at least one festival or competition, and at the annual Celebration of the Arts day at RHS. Additional performances may be added to the calendar depending upon request and availability.
In February 2024, the Jazz Ensembles will travel to and perform in California.
The jazz ensembles have performed with such noted guest artists as Byron Stripling, Shelly Berg, Phil Wilson, Denis DiBlasio, Kristin Korb, Darmon Meader, Marvin Stamm, Conrad Herwig, David Demsey, Jeff Jarvis, Scott Whitfield, Andy Fusco, Dave Bargeron, Ingrid Jensen, Michael Philip Mossman, Dave Stryker, Wayne Bergeron, Tom "Bones" Malone, John Toomey, Don Braden, Andy Martin, Mark Friedman, Vincent Gardner, Jerry Vivino, and Julius Tolentino.
Gary Fink, Director- RHS Big Band
Jeffrey Haas - Director - RHS Jazz Lab
Ben Hankle -Trumpet Section Assistant
James Garde - Saxophone Section Assistant
Henry Heyzer - Trombone Section Assistant
All students interested in auditioning for one of the jazz bands and/or the pit orchestra MUST attend a MANDATORY MEETING on Thursday, October 5 during Unit Lunch in the Band Room.
Auditions for the 2023-2024 Jazz Ensembles will be held on November 13th.