Seattle high school’s all-female jazz band is heading to the national stage


Her afternoon band rehearsal was particularly different: all of her bandmates are high school musicians. On Thursday, they were preparing for the Savannah Music Festival’s Swing Central Jazz competition, where Seattle JazzED’s Girls Ellington project will be the first all-female band to compete in a major national competition, according to band manager Kelly Clingan.

Only 12 groups from across the country participated in the festival and the submissions were all blinded, meaning the judges were unaware of the gender composition.

The group departs for the three-day festival on April 2. He plans to rehearse for four hours on Saturday. They will play five songs: “Peace / Blue Silver”, “Bourbon Street Jingling Jollies”, “Moon Over Cuba”, “Big Dipper” and “Hoe Down”.

Celeste Gould of Edmonds-Woodway High School plays trumpet during a rehearsal session at the Seattle JazzED inside the MLK Fame Community Center in Seattle on March 28, 2019. (Photo by Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut )

Madan is the only member of the group to have already attended the festival. Her high school group was a finalist last year.

The 17-year-old musician, who also plays the clarinet, wore chunky round glasses, a loose red sweater and multicolored Vans as she rehearsed. She has a musical ear: throughout the practice, she did not hesitate to make suggestions on the phrasing and the upcoming performance of the group.

Madan said she was guessed as a jazz musician by people she looked up to in the jazz scene. She said there were times when she felt she had to prove herself because her male counterparts didn’t believe in her abilities.

His bandmates can identify themselves.

“I think to be a girl in jazz, you have to be twice as good to be considered equal,” said guitarist Faye Alesse, a 10th grader at Roosevelt High School. “Everyone here is really good because they have to try twice as hard.”

The conversation then turned to “vibration” – a word in the jazz world that means to be undermined or judged, the girls explained. The musicians talked about the times when they were vibrated.

“I was a freshman playing in the senior wind ensemble playing the flute, and I had a solo part when I heard laughter and boos in my back,” said Brooke Lambert, an alto saxophone and flute player in 10th grade. “There were these two guys and they had a tuner and watched me play to see if I was out of tune.”

Parker Crotty, a senior trombone player at Ballard High School, recalled introducing herself to jazz singer Dena DeRose in the lobby after a jaw-dropping concert and she assumed Crotty was a singer. DeRose was surprised to learn that Crotty played the trombone.

“I wasn’t offended,” she said, adding that she found it interesting that even a woman assumed she didn’t play an instrument.

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Henry R. Wright