Savannah Arts Academy’s Skylite Jazz Band Among 12 High School Jazz Bands Selected to Participate in Swing Central Jazz at 2020 Savannah Music Festival

Staff Report From Savannah CEO

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Twelve of the nation’s top high school jazz bands have been selected to participate in the 14th annual SWING CENTRAL JAZZ (SCJ) High SchoolJazz Band Competition and Workshop, an event produced by the Savannah Music Festival (SMF). The 12 finalists include student groups from across the country, including an ensemble from Savannah’s own Savannah Arts Academy.

Participating bands spend three days immersed in the world of swing and big band jazz as they learn about improvisation, instrumental technique and big band repertoire from faculty led by jazz pianist/composer/educator and SMF Associate Artistic Director Marcus Roberts and Swing Central Jazz Associate Director Jim Ketch and a faculty of 20 esteemed musicians/educators. This year’s team of clinicians includes Wycliffe Gordon, Emmet Cohen, Brianna Thomas and Quentin Baxter, among others.

After two days of workshops and clinics with jazz masters, the bands perform in the “Jazz on the River” showcase at Rousakis Plaza on Savannah’s River Street (April 2, 4-7 pm, free admission) and participate in a public competition at the historic Lucas Theatre for the Arts (Friday, April 3, 8:30 am – 3:30 pm, free admission).

In 2020, the nationally recognized SWING CENTRAL JAZZ program features the following bands going head-to-head for the coveted Jean Elizabeth Faircloth Award:

Ann Arbor Huron High School Rhythm Rat Jazz Orchestra, Ann Arbor, MI

Byron Center High School Jazz Orchestra, Byron Center, MI

Enloe High School Jazz Ambassadors, Raleigh, NC

Grissom High School “A” Jazz Band, Huntsville, AL

Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra, New York, NY

Lower Moreland High School Jazz Ensemble, Lower Moreland, PA

Northview High School Jazz Band, Grand Rapids, MI

Osceola County School of the Arts Jazz A, Kissimmee, FL

Savannah Arts Academy SkyeLite Jazz Band, Savannah, GA

South Whidbey High School Jazz Ensemble, Langley, WA

Spruce Creek High School 12 O’Clock Jazz Band, Port Orange, FL

Tarpon Springs High School Jazz Ensemble, Tarpon Springs, FL

The 2020 SWING CENTRAL JAZZ clinician team includes:

Reeds: Boyce Griffith, Joe Goldberg, Stephen Riley, Tissa Khosla

Trumpet: Jim Ketch, Alphonso Horne, Timothy Blackmon, Jr.

Trombone: Wycliffe Gordon, Ron Westray

Guitar: Dave Stryker

Piano: Marcus Roberts, Emmet Cohen, Jeb Patton

Bass: Rodney Jordan, Roland Guerin, Rodney Whitaker

Drums: Jason Marsalis, Quentin Baxter, Bryan Carter

Vocals: Brianna Thomas

On April 2, all bands perform in a public showcase at Rousakis Plaza on River Street. Competition rounds on April 3 at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts are free and open to the public, and are presented through webcast for family and friends who aren’t able to make the trip to Savannah. During the competition, each band plays an original commissioned arrangement of King Oliver’s “Dippermouth Blues”, arranged by Wycliffe Gordon, as well as two selections from standard big band repertoire by composers such as Benny Carter, Duke Ellington, Gordon Goodwin, and Count Basie.

The three top-scoring bands each receive an honorarium and vie for the coveted Jean Elizabeth Faircloth Award ($5,000 for first, $2,500 for second and $1,000 for third place). The three finalists also perform the opening set for Swing Central Jazz Finale: New Orleans Swing Time, an original production at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3.