West Hartford’s Hall High School Jazz Band to Launch Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz

The group, which will consist of current students as well as alumni, will perform with Christopher Crenshaw, a professional musician who plays trombone with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

“They’re one of the biggest and most beloved bands,” said David Garner, who just graduated from Hall High School this year and plays double bass. “It would be like if you had to play with Taylor Swift, but in the jazz world.”


James Antonucci, the manager of Hall’s jazz band, said he’s wanted to do something like this for some time and jumped in to accept the offer made by the jazz festival, which is being held all weekend at Bushnell Park.

The group will take the stage on July 14 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“It’s such a start for them as they head into the summer,” Antonucci said. “I have wanted to bring together several generations of current graduates and students for a while now. It will be a wonderful experience to lead us into the fall.

Antonucci said this experience reflects what a professional musician can sometimes encounter. Rather than taking the three months or more they have to practice for their other shows, these musicians will have a few nights of rehearsals to get on the same page.

“It will definitely depend on everyone getting home and getting ready, which I think will prepare us well for next year as well,” said Avery Allen, a pianist who will be a senior at Hall this fall. “I think it’s going to be valuable to have a real-life concert script. It’s going to be another fun time.

It is therefore useful that some of these participants already have a built-in chemistry.

“People coming back are people we’ve seen in the past and we’ve seen play with the band before,” Allen said. “We are familiar with them that way. These are people we have looked up to in the past. I think it’s gonna be good. I’m just excited to hang out with everyone again and make music.

Hall 2018 graduate Joe Kitz said he thought how exciting a return to the Hall stage would be when he visited for the latest iteration of Pops ‘n Jazz.

“I’m super excited to be back with the live jazz band,” Kitz said. “I was saying to my friend, if only I could get up there one more time, that would be amazing. I missed it so much. It was definitely the highlight of my life until high school to be able to perform in Pops ‘n Jazz. Some of my closest friends I met there. I’m really excited to play with my bandmates again.

Kitz can’t wait to be back alongside these bandmates, while also being joined by current Hall players.

“We were all in the band together,” Kitz said. “I’m really excited to play with them again. When I had the chance, I said absolutely. I have so many good memories of playing with my friends.

Lily Silverman, who plays baritone saxophone and clarinet, just graduated from Hall this year. She is very excited to perform for an audience that is not just the school or the West Hartford community.

“It’s a unique opportunity to play for people outside of the community,” Silverman said. “To have a real opportunity to play for a huge festival, it’s really exciting and another opportunity to play for people who can give up Pop ‘n Jazz and go into professional things. It will be a chance for them to see us .

And performing with Crenshaw, she said, is something the band have been looking forward to since being selected for Essentially Ellington in 2021. Due to the pandemic, they could only work with Crenshaw virtually.

“We particularly requested it ourselves,” Silverman said. “In 2021, our group made [Essentially Ellington] and even though it was virtual, we were assigned a mentor. We never got to meet him in person. We only had zoom calls with him. We really wanted him to come and play with us.

Allen said Crenshaw is the best of the best.

“It’s kind of like playing basketball with someone on the best team in the NBA,” Crenshaw said. “We’re fans of having him play with us. I’m definitely excited to play with him.

Silverman, who plans to study music education in college, said she will be watching Crenshaw closely.

“It’s very exciting. It’s a huge honor,” Silverman said. school in the fall for music education with the intention of becoming a music teacher. By playing with someone of such caliber, I will learn his techniques. I can see what he does, how he is warm up, how he plays and how he behaves in front of others.


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Henry R. Wright