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Anoka-Hennepin students jam at annual Middle School Jazz Festival

Oak View Middle School jazz band performs at middle school jazz festival Feb. 29(03/01/2024) For around 20 years, middle school students in Anoka-Hennepin have gathered for a mid-year concert full of talented musicians and a festive evening at the Middle School Jazz Festival.

On Feb. 29, a full house of parents/guardians and family members clapped and sang along as students from all six middle schools in Anoka-Hennepin displayed their talents. View photos from the Middle School Jazz Festival performances

Students in middle school jazz bands meet outside of classroom time, typically once per week before or after school, and rehearse throughout the school year.

“It takes a lot of dedication from our students to be in a jazz band,” said Lora Ukaegbu, band director at Anoka Middle School for the Arts, Washington. “Students spend extra time rehearsing and performing in extra concerts and it shows in our band classes too, the extra dedication.”

Jazz band features mostly students in seventh and eighth grade, but the occasional sixth-grade student will have the opportunity to participate. 

“It is a nice offshoot from band,” said Sabrina Olson, band director and music competition teacher at AMSA, Fred Moore. “Jazz music is more technically challenging, the rhythms are more technically challenging and the key signatures that students read in. There are so many different parts to jazz music, including improvisation.”

Jazz band also allows students to showcase their talent with more instruments, including piano, bass and electric guitar. 

Each jazz band performed three songs during the festival and the night concluded with teachers from all six schools joining on the stage for a surprise staff performance, which was a hit with the audience, especially the middle schoolers. 

“It’s exciting,” Olson said. “It's the only time we get a chance to hear other schools perform and it has been a big hit with the students adding the staff performance to end the night.”