The Musicians Among Us (From the Archives)

“Music cleanses the understanding; inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

The Musicians Among Us

Every now and then you experience something that makes you rethink what you thought you knew.

I had just such an experience a fortnight ago when I was literally blown away by the musicianship and showmanship of the Jazz Ensembles on display at the annual Jazz Cabaret at the Marriott convention center in Middleton, WI. The Jazz Cabaret featured four local high school Jazz Groups (2 from Middleton, 1 from Madison East and McFarland), including the “6 O’Clock Jazz Group” that our son Jake plays percussion with.

Jake was one of only a handful of freshmen performers in the band and he did a great job, but the highlights of the evening were the featured upper classman musicians who were simply amazing. If they were playing along with a late-night band you would never notice they didn’t belong. The evening included one of the best trumpet performances I have ever heard, and a saxophonist’s who delighted the audience and brought them to their feet with an inspired performance.

I felt like Baloo the bear in Disney’s Jungle Book movie. For those of you who don’t watch this movie several times a year like I do, Baloo is a bear who can’t help dancing/bobbing his head when he sings/hears a catchy tune. If you saw me sitting at my table in the back of the room you might have smiled at the middle-aged goofy looking man tapping/bopping his head to the beat of the music on stage.

What excited me most was the opportunity that was created by and for these kids. Performing in that venue before a large enthusiastic audience is something that these kids will remember for the rest of their lives. They played professional arrangements of Jazz standards and they flat out sounded great. For some it may be a stepping stone to other stages of their musical journey, but I suspect for many it will be the pinnacle of their musical careers.

I had no idea there was this much local talent in our midst, and I would wager that this doesn’t just happen by chance. The Middleton Jazz bands were led by their director, Mr. Brad Schneider, who certainly deserves much of the credit for providing this magical evening. Mr. Schneider is in turn supported by a small army of parent volunteers that helped make the event a reality.

Also deserving of credit is a district wide music program that is the envy of many throughout the state. Middleton is fortunate to have some truly dedicated teachers that take great pride in the programs they offer their kids. Unfortunately the support for music seems to be waning a bit in the current environment (send a message to your school board member and school principals to let them know you support music in your district), but hopefully the core of what is special about the district will persist.

And last but certainly not least are the talented individuals who work hard to create beautiful music. They reminded me of just how important music can be and how it can make you feel. The great thing about live music is that you don’t simply passively listen to it, but rather you become part of it through a give and take. The performers join together and offer up their music. They in turn are inspired by the response they receive from their audience and the music takes flight. The audience breathes in the music and makes it their own and lets it move them and take them to a better place. At the end of the evening both are better for the experience.

I thought I knew what to expect when I walked through the double doors of the Middleton Marriott, but as it turned out I had no idea what I had been missing. Pretty Cool, and who knew it was available just a short distance down the road.

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