High school jazz band heads to Georgia for national competition over spring break


ANN ARBOR, MI – The Rhythm Rat Jazz Orchestra from Ann Arbor Huron High School will travel to Georgia during spring break to participate in the Swing Central Jazz at the Savannah Music Festival.

Despite recent reports that Georgia has six confirmed cases of coronavirus and 11 suspected cases, Ann Arbor Public Schools communications director Andrew Cluley said the group are still attending the festival at this time. So far, only international travel has been canceled for AAPS students, Culey said.

The group of 27 students will face 11 other schools in the national competition from March 30 to April 4. Jazz musicians, such as Wycliffe Gordon and Marcus Roberts, are expected.

“These famous musicians are going to come and do masterclasses working one-on-one with our band,” said Rob Ash, band director at Huron High School. “Every year they hire a famous jazz musician to arrange a piece and it premieres at that festival – and every band plays it.”

Each participating group will present the world premiere of “Dippermouth Blues”, originally recorded by King Oliver, now arranged by Gordon. Groups then choose two of the four pieces to play from a list. Huron High is about to play “Purple Gazelle” and “Magic,” Ash said.

The group will also perform two plays on the waterfront at the Savannah Jazz Festival, Ash said.

Ash is an energetic director, who runs and jumps, waves his hands and does sound effects during workouts. His love for jazz comes from studying at university and being part of the local jazz community, he said.

“It’s a pleasure to work in a part of the community that supports him so well,” said Ash. “It’s really easy to be enthusiastic when you have such talented students. “

Austin Aldrich and Tim Kohn, two students from Huron High School, have been with the jazz group for three years. They said the experience allowed them to open their minds, express their creativity and, most importantly, have fun.

“It’s going to be really cool traveling with a small group of friends,” Aldrich said. “We’ve known these guys for almost three years now and it’s going to be fun to hang out on a normal day.”

The two seniors plan to major in jazz once in college due to their background in the group.

“I had a lot of mentors and great teachers,” Kohn said. “It really inspired me to want to learn more and study jazz in college to continue at an even higher level. This is probably what I look forward to the most.

The Huron High School Rhythm Rat Jazz Orchestra currently has a Go Fund Me page set up to raise funds for their trip to Georgia.

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Henry R. Wright