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    • Robert Smith conducts the Jazz Rock ensemble. (

Jazz and Jam, Rock and Roll: Hopkins Jazz-Rock Ensemble

Thomas Noto '19
The Jazz-Rock Ensemble at Hopkins gives students with a love for music an opportunity to come together and make music themselves.
The Jazz-Rock Ensemble at Hopkins gives students with a love for music an opportunity to come together and make music themselves. “It started off as an after school opportunity, much like a club, but became a real class about twelve years ago,” explained Director of Instrumental Music, Robert Smith. 

The evolution of Jazz-Rock Ensemble was gradual. Smith said, “For many years before that, student-led bands existed as clubs, but those were usually very small and didn’t form every year. Then, Hopkins decided to offer Jazz/Rock and a class called ‘Classical Ensemble’ as their first official instrumental music opportunities.  These were led by teachers from Neighborhood Music School and eventually by Mr. Adrian Slywotsky, my predecessor and the first full-time Director of Instrumental Music at Hopkins.” 

The twenty-two students work to perform a wide variety of musical genres not solely limited to jazz such as pop, rock, funk, blues, Latin and reggae. 

When practicing and performing the students must be able to work together to assemble a song. “It’s sort of like a puzzle you have to solve, but, once you do, it’s awesome. It’s a fun break in the day and it’s nice to feel like you’re a part of something bigger. My favorite part is probably when everything comes together in the end and the song just works,” said Emma DeNaples ’19, a trombonist of six years. 

Through this process, each section of instruments has to master its own music and then the sections have to layer their parts on top of each other in a constructive environment. 

Smith said, “It is not unusual for the Jazz/Rock students to pick out flaws they hear with others in the class and for us to come together as a whole and work on the problem together. All the mistakes are out in the open, as are all of the triumphs!” 

Audience members do not fully comprehend the amount of work that always goes into each Jazz Band performance. “Many people rave about Jazz/Rock’s performances in assembly or in concerts, but they may not realize the time and effort put into each song,” said Avery MacMullen ’16, who has been playing the trumpet for eight years. Conor Hartigan ’19, an alto saxophonist of six years, said “[I practice] Several times a week, usually for half an hour to 45 minutes in a sitting, if I’m lucky and all my homework is done. Sometimes that can be a tall order!” 

The Hopkins Jazz Band gives musicians a chance to spread their love of music to others. Eric Martin ’19, a bassist said: “When I play music, I’m keeping the goal of becoming a better musician in mind so that one day, I can be able to help other people learn and experience all the gifts that music has to offer.”

Zander Blitzer ’18 said, “Jazz-Rock has really improved over the years and I really enjoy their choice of music in performances.”
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