All that jazz

By DANIEL MARSH Published April 5, 2012 at 3:23 a.m.
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— Jazz band students from Dardanelle schools and around the state will display their skills during the second State Jazz Festival on April 21

in downtown Dardanelle.

Clay Hooten, director of bands for the

school system, said students in Darda

nelle’s high school and middle school jazz

bands are getting ready for the festival,

which is sponsored by Arkansas Jazz Edu

cators. Jazz bands and combo acts from

Vilonia High School, Hope High School,Arkansas Tech University, the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Arkansas at Monticello are also scheduled to perform at the daylong, free festival.

The festival celebrates Jazz History Month.

Hooten said the festival has grown since its first incarnation last year in Conway.

“It was successful, but small,” he said of the first festival. More bands will be performing this year, he said, and high school band members will get written feedback from Michael Underwood, professor ofmusic theory and low brass at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“He will adjudicate the first three tunes played by each high school band,” Hooten said. “After that, it’s just going to be one big jam session.”

Hooten is in his 13th year teaching jazz at Dardanelle. The high school jazz band has 20 members, he said, while the middle school program has 14 students. There is also an advanced combo. All three programs fall under the curriculum of the Zero Hour Jazz Band.

“Some students decided to start playing jazz without an instructor,” Hooten said of the origins of the program. “Since then, it’s gone from one night a week to becoming part of the curriculum.”

The Zero Hour Jazz Band meets at 7 a.m., before first period, Hooten said, “and the kids really like it.”

Most of the students receive their first exposure to jazz through participation in the jazz bands.

“The middle school band is sort of a feeder to the highschool,” Hooten said. “In high school, we really expand on what they’ve learned.”

The students build confidence by performing in public, he said.

“We play at the Peabody Hotel around Christmas, and we play all kinds of banquets and civic functions in and around Russellville and Dardanelle,” Hooten said.

The genre’s focus on individual creativity is what makes it popular with students who stick with the program, Hooten said.

“When they stand up and play a solo, it’s there’s; they own it,” he said.

YouTube videos have been a handy instructional device. Students find videos on the website and use them to help learn pieces.

“Or they will download music and put it on their cellphones,” Hooten said. “I had taken for granted that they wouldn’t listen to [jazz] until I realized how much of it they were downloading to their phones. That impressed me and made me think they really do care about this stuff.”

Hooten said the event will help preserve jazz.

“We’re always just a generation away from losing it,” he said.

The Dardanelle Middle School band will play at 11 a.m. at the festival, which will be held downtown at the outdoor pavilion on Front Street. The high school band will follow at 11:20. Performances by other bands will be held throughout the afternoon.

Staff writer Daniel A. Marsh can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or

None DANIEL MARSH can be reached at .

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