High School Jazz Ensemble Takes Show on the Road


F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “Though the Jazz Age continued, it became less and less an affair of youth.“ If Fitzgerald were alive today and visited Elmhurst, Illinois, he would be pleasantly surprised at what he discovered.

At York High School in Elmhurst, students have five opportunities to perform jazz music, and can join a dozen other performing groups. The jazz ensemble is the school’s top instrumental jazz group. Led by MENC memberWilliam Riddle, the jazz ensemble often takes their show on the road.

Recently, they performed at the National Association of Secondary School Principals LEAD conference in Chicago. The conference offered leadership training to members of the National Honor Society and a little live entertainment courtesy of the York High School musicians.

The jazz ensemble performed a few standards including a Dave Wolpe arrangement of the Cole Porter tune, “I’ve Got You Under my Skin,” featuring student vocalist Michael St. Peter. A big hit with the crowd and inspired by his father, a jazz trumpet player, St. Peter plans to study opera performance at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. “It’s important to be a well-rounded musician,” he said. Many of the performers were inspired by their parents to become involved with music, and encouraged by teachers like William Riddle.

Several members of the band plan to study music education at top universities around the country. Bassist Will McGing plans to study performance and music education at the Boston Conservatory. When asked what made him join jazz ensemble, he “liked the freedom to play notes that aren’t on the page.”

Future teachers and performing musicians are among the members of the York High School jazz ensemble, but not everyone wants to pursue a career in music. The band’s percussionist and baritone saxophonist plan to take the easy way, with majors in chemical and aerospace engineering.
Photo by Victoria Chamberlin

—Victoria Chamberlin, March 22, 2011, © National Association for Music Education