It Really Is Verona Jazz, and Beyond


The audition process was grueling. My audition went horribly, unsurprisingly; the music was fast and intricate, and I didn’t know my scales well enough. I play the trumpet, which is — in my opinion — one of the hardest instruments to really sound good on. When the decisions were posted, Mr. Morden had put me on “probation,” which means I could attend rehearsals, but might not necessarily get to play.

As a doe-eyed freshmen, I had naively entered a land of Nat “King” Cole, Billy Joel, the B-52s, and other fantastic artists, whose stories we told in melody.

By the time my first rehearsal ended, I learned Mr. Morden treated this group like professionals; there was no sugar coating. If you were good, you got to play, and if you sucked, he would tell you. 

The music played in Jazz Band unites kids who otherwise would have never crossed paths. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday I left home for rehearsal. We practiced from 6:30 pm – 9 pm. The trumpets stood on top of a rickety bench; I was the only girl, but I soon became friends with three teenage boys — they’ve all graduated, but they were the absolute best, kind and smart. We created a WhatsApp group chat we still talk in, and they did their best to include me in conversations that went beyond my head. 

There is never instant gratification. Every song we perform was practiced and broken down into fragments and run over and over again, each instrumental section of the band repeating a run or a shout chorus until it sounded the way it should. Repetition. You’re given music, you play it, it usually sounds like crap, and you keep playing it until you get the right articulation of every note. The right swing or rhythm. We play until it sounds the way it’s supposed to, and if it doesn’t, we cut the song. 

My first year, I discovered Jazz Band was a place I could express myself freely; I could be completely bizarre, like dancing around barefoot, choreographing songs in pajamas, making weird jokes. I could sing and dance and play my instrument in a world where music ruled the night. Music connected every one of us in the room, regardless of if we liked each other or not. Or if we had a complete disaster of a day. We’d still show up for Jazz Band. I’d still try and fail, and sometimes try and succeed. But it didn’t really matter because at the end of the day, I was able to do this: to have an environment where I can learn to play classic, complex songs, and watch myself grow. 

I feel there is a certain maturity that is reached through the expectations Jazz Band lays upon its students. It can be hard to feel you aren’t playing well enough, or you aren’t keeping up with the other players — I for one, at 14, felt the pressure playing with talented, and mysterious 17-year-olds (possessing a jaded attitude and a specific humor I didn’t really understand), who sounded much better than me. But Jazz Band builds character. I’m sure most of the school doesn’t really care what we do, but that isn’t the point. Recognition is always a plus, but the love that emanates in the room when a song finishes and we all collectively feel the pride, is the true medal. Having Jazz Band be as underrated as it is, makes it feel even more special to be a part of. Like, Jazz Band is our secret society that only the most interesting and talented people will ever understand. 

There is no parallel sensation to coming together from our busy lives, and not just playing, but truly making music. The music I’ve gotten to be a part of is what makes me feel beautiful, and smart, and happy. More than any cute outfit or expensive makeup product could ever. The people in this program come and go, and though it’s sad, the spirit of this club can never die. Time holds still. Our thoughts ruminate in our music that is remembered forever in our minds, carrying out notes of sweat and tears, the words of lovers and poets and artists. 

And that’s truly the most rewarding feeling.