Jazz Ed #1 – New Era for West High School Band Program

An Introduction: My name is Brian Lang and I play saxophone. I am also a lifelong lover and supporter of jazz music. JazzColumbus.com is a wonderful resource for jazz fans, musicians, students, and teachers and I want to give credit to Andrew Patton and Mark Subel for their work on the site. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this site, it provides a schedule for live jazz around central Ohio, reviews of concerts and recordings of local and national acts and more. I highly recommend you sign up for the weekly email newsletter and get the schedule of events and highlights from the site.

As for this monthly column, the plan is for me to highlight different areas of jazz education in central Ohio. I would like to open it up to jazz educators, students, and musicians to please keep me apprised of local events that your school/organization might be putting on. These could include and not be limited to concerts, clinics, guest artists, camps, travel, and honor bands/all state. I also plan on highlighting local schools and university programs. If you have any information that you’d like to send me, please email me at Brian@ArchCityLive.com or call 614-519-3651.

New Era for West High School Band Program

For this first article, I’d like to highlight West High School band director Jochen McEvoy’s ongoing work to get a jazz band reestablished at the inner city high school. Mr. McEvoy, a friend and former student of mine when I was a teaching assistant at BGSU, became the band director at West HS last summer. Hailing from close by in the Westland area, he is attempting to recruit students into the program and has already seen great recruiting results in the concert and marching band programs. The students at WHS performed their first public concert band performance last fall and Mr. McEvoy has started a jazz band this spring which meets once a week.

Musicians around Columbus know West High School for its many alumni who are still performing and teaching in the area. San Francisco area trumpeter Ed Morrison, who returns to Columbus yearly to give us his best Maynard Ferguson impression with the Emerald City Swing Orchestra and Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra, also attended WHS. With several other teachers with a jazz background in the feeder schools for WHS, like recent Capital University grad Sam Kearney, we hope that the program can someday rekindle some of its former magic and give the students a memorable experience like it did for many of the alumni.

In an email update, Mr. McEvoy wrote:

“West High School Jazz Band is still in its infancy but the program is growing more interest by the week. When it comes to overall recruitment in the concert and marching program we have added about 11 kids since the beginning of marching band which doubles our size since I took over at the end of June! Our Jazz Band rehearses once a week where we work on improvisation, jazz style, and the history of the genre.

Our concert band class has seen tremendous improvements this year in reading music, tone quality, technique, and overall musicianship. I could not be more proud of this group of great students. At West High School we have a philosophy to ‘Do things better than you have ever done them before.’ Our philosophy simply means to everyday be a better person and a better musician than you were yesterday.

This year we have one concert band that meets everyday and I am excited next year to add an official jazz band class that will meet everyday. My plan is to have the Jazz band perform not only at the West Band Concert but also in the community and at the other elementary/middle schools in the area. We have a few great feeder programs in Starling, Wedgewood, Hilltonia, and Westmoor Middle Schools with some talented students. We cannot wait to have them here at West High School. There are great things happening at West High School outside of music and I can’t wait to see where this instrumental music program and school progress in the future.”

Good luck to the students and Mr. McEvoy over at West! It is wonderful to see the program being built and I’m sure it will be a great experience for the students and community on the west side. For information on how to support the West High School Music Boosters, please email Mr. McEvoy at jmcevoy@columbus.k12.oh.us.

Jazz Ed on the Web:

For this section I will provide a new link to a jazz education resource for every article. Please let me know of any suggestions for future articles.

tamingthesaxophone.com – Free resource for basic and advanced saxophone techniques, jazz improvisation tips for all instruments, as well as basic music theory and arranging. This site is owned and operated by saxophonist Pete Thomas.

Upcoming events:

39th Annual Ohio State University Jazz Festival: March 31 – April 3

Denison University Jazz Weekend: April 2 – April 3

Capital Jazz and World Music Festival: April 11 – April 26 – Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Founding of Capital University’s Jazz Studies Program

Well ladies and gentlemen…that’s it for the first installment of Jazz Ed on jazzcolumbus.com. Until next time, swing on Columbus!


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