The Student News Site of East Lansing High School


The Student News Site of East Lansing High School


The Student News Site of East Lansing High School


Jazz band begins after end of marching season, to perform at Collage

Photo by Jack Hoffman
While at rehearsal for Jazz II, Liam VanDerHeide (10), strums his part on the guitar along to the music on Dec. 12. VanDerHeide will be performing at Collage for the second year in a row on Jazz II.

As the Hastings Jazz Festival came to an end in April of 2022, Liam VanDerHeide (10) and the rest members of both Jazz I and Jazz II, found themselves stranded in the riverside town. The bus that was supposed to take them back home was nowhere to be seen, with no reason as to why it was gone. After learning about the bus’s disappearance, VanDerHeide started to feel stressed about a dress rehearsal later that evening he didn’t want to be late to. 

After deciding it was a lost cause to just wait around for the missing bus, the group of musicians lugged their instruments around the city in search of something to do. Ultimately, they ended up at Way Too Cheap, a local resale shop on E. State Street.  

Surrounded by funky hats and discarded sunglasses, VanDerHeide realized just how much the connections he had made with his fellow band members over the season meant to him. Interactions like this one are just one reason out of many that VanDerHeide is looking forward to playing on jazz band again this year. 

Jazz band season kicked off in mid-November, pulling musicians in from around the school to audition. Students who auditioned received the song “Straight No Chaser” by jazz composer Thelonious Monk to play during their respective parts. 

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After being sorted into either Jazz I or Jazz II, members of Jazz I attend morning rehearsals on Mondays and Jazz II meets on Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Both bands participate in an afternoon practice on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. At these practices, each of the two bands play all together for a portion of the time and then split off into sections to work on specifics for the remainder of the rehearsal. 

All participants only play in one of the bands, except for one individual, Apollo Reed (10), who was placed into Jazz I for piano and Jazz II for trumpet. 

“I only auditioned for Jazz I on piano, but I was in Jazz II last year and I was in trumpet for that,” Reed said. “I’m pretty sure [Mr. Larzelere] just kept my name on the [Jazz II] roster for this year.”

As a well versed musician who is currently a member of Wind Ensemble, the highest level day band, Reed appreciates the fun challenge that jazz band brings. 

“I liked the different music and how it was kinda hard to play, which made it challenging and also really interesting,” Reed said.

Sharing this sentiment, VanDerHeide, the guitarist for Jazz II this year, appreciates the modernity jazz band specifically brings to the music. This makes jazz band more engaging for VanDerHeide unlike other bands where they are required to play older pieces he’s not as familiar with.  

“A lot of the jazz we play is big band jazz from the 40s and 50s,” VanDerHeide said. “That, to me, can be a lot more interesting than classical repertoire music from the 1900’s [we play in other bands].”

Many of the individuals now on jazz band were also a part of this year’s marching band, which began at the start of the year and came to its official close around mid-October. Jazz band gives students like VanDerHeide an outlet to continuously play music throughout the year. 

“It’s another way to do music, which is something that I really enjoy doing,” VanDerHeide said.

Jazz band typically consists of only 20 or so musicians, compared to the 50-plus member day bands, allowing for a tighter sense of community to be created. Ella Graham (10), a tenor saxophonist in Jazz II, finds that this unification is largely created through bonding over the jazz music itself. 

“I feel like it’s more of a community because it’s a certain part of music instead of all kinds of music like we play in other bands,” Graham said. “It’s just jazz, and there’s not as many people [in the band] so you know more of the people in it better.”

This is reinforced by the fact that the Jazz I and Jazz II rehearsals overlap on Wednesdays, allowing the members from the two bands to talk and connect with one another. However, they don’t actively play or practice with one another due to different music and expertise present. 

“I think it might be cool to collaborate on a song here and there,” Graham said. “[Although,] it makes sense that we do our own things because of our different skill levels.”

Ella Graham (10) rehearses “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music alongside other Jazz II members during their morning practice on Dec. 12 in preparation for Collage.

Many students on Jazz II in previous years found themselves inspired by Jazz I, resulting in excitement to join the higher level band. Emma Bluhm (12) recalled listening in on Jazz I practices her sophomore and junior years on Jazz II and being highly impressed by the quality and content of their music.

“Hearing [the people in] Jazz I play the songs that they would play and how well they played really made me want to join Jazz I,” Bluhm said.

Bluhm now plays trombone on Jazz I for the first time during her last year of high-school jazz band. 

As a current member of Jazz II, VanDerHeide finds himself looking forward to the days he’s able to be a part of Jazz I, specifically to play singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder’s music. 

“Jazz I always plays a Stevie Wonder song, which makes me really excited to be in Jazz I in the future to be able to play that,” VanDerHeide said. 

For Bluhm, Jazz band creates an environment where musicians of all grades and experience levels can have an enjoyable experience with the jazz they play. 

“You’re just supposed to have fun with it,” Bluhm said. “The more you have fun with it, the more you know the music where you can [better] express yourself.”

Both jazz bands will play at Collage for their first gig on Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. Jazz I will be playing the song “Four” and some Christmas tunes, while Jazz II will be playing “Creole Love Call” and “My Favorite Things.” The event will take place at ELHS in the auditorium. 

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About the Contributor
Belle Potter
Belle Potter, Staff Writer
Belle Potter is in the class of 2026 and is a staff writer for Portrait.  This is her first year on staff as a sophomore. Belle's favorite thing about journalism is being able to accurately share and tell the unique stories of all the students and staff she has the pleasure of speaking to here at ELHS.   When she's not in the newsroom, Belle enjoys swimming, makes jewelry, drawing, watching movies, and hanging out with her friends.

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