At Athlos Leadership Academy in Austin, TX, the music program has grown by leaps and bounds since its opening four years ago. It is currently home to a 35-voice choir and three bands and is growing in recognition statewide.
On April 1, the advanced jazz combo band competed in the Georgetown Jazz Festival against large district jazz bands. The group walked away with the superior “1” rating and second place overall. Four students placed in honor band, as well.
“I was thrilled to see the result of so much hard work and dedication,” said Stephanie Nesseth, director of jazz bands and choirs at Athlos Leadership Academy-Austin. “Not only are these students dedicated, but they are extremely talented, curious, and courageous.”
The Athlos jazz combo stood out amongst other competitors at the Georgetown Jazz Festival for many reasons, two being that they were the only combo in attendance and the only band from a charter school. While the group walked away victorious, the road to this competition took a lot of hard work, perseverance, and practice.
The band was booked for their first show of the year at the beginning of September and had only a short time to learn seven new songs. For the competition, in addition to some new pieces, the band’s best songs were chosen, so the group had become very familiar with playing them.
“They got pretty tired of practicing these tunes, but they never complained and never gave up,” Ms. Nesseth said. “Band members use grit every day.”
Looking forward to the Georgetown Jazz Festival, Ms. Nesseth knew the band would be up against some strong competition, so she challenged the students even more.
“Sometimes the students looked at me and said ‘No way, I can’t do that,’” Ms. Nesseth said. “There were definitely some tears, stomping feet, and pounding fists when they were disappointed in their work, but they persevered.”
Ms. Nesseth attributes the band’s success to their teamwork and how members of the group care for one another and strive to lift each other up.
“While having a trophy and a superior rating plaque is awesome, I think the most important thing they’ve learned is the power of ‘yet,’ as in ‘I can’t do that yet, but I know I can with practice and dedication,” Ms. Nesseth said.
The Advanced Jazz Combo (Band III) features nine advanced players in grades six through eight. Students play, listen to, and study the theory behind America’s classical music, jazz.