The Student News Site of Pella High School


The Student News Site of Pella High School


The Student News Site of Pella High School


Jazz One’s Historic Dynasty


On the evening of April 2, around 25 high school students were returned to the high school. As they shuffled into the building with bloodshot eyes, they brought with them backpacks, assorted musical instruments, and a State Championship trophy. This group is Pella Jazz One, and last month’s win was the ensemble’s 21st career state championship.  The group’s lengthy history of success has no finale in sight. 

Success is no stranger to Pella High School, yet the staggering number of championships earned by the ensemble leaves many asking questions. Amidst directorial changes, class restructuring, and hundreds of students involved, how could a program consistently reach such high success?

Established in 1973, Pella’s jazz program was a modest addition to the music department. The group found marginal success in these early years, attending local festivals at area colleges. The inaugural Iowa Jazz Championships was held in 1976. As a result, Pella’s program improved alongside the growth of jazz statewide, securing their first championship win in 1982. Jazz One would then remain among the best in the state for the rest of the decade, even amid class restructuring. 

Former Jazz One director, Mr. Dick Redman, notes that winning IJC has remained a prestigious honor, noting, “The quality of jazz played [at IJC] each year has continued to be very high, so the amount of success the band has seen over the years is quite a feat.”

Dominance is no exaggeration, either, as the program’s success would extend to the present day.; 2024 marks the 40th consecutive year that Pella has placed 4th or better at IJC, making the ensemble the most decorated program in Iowa.

Jazz One’s alumni class would strengthen thanks to these members. Several professional musicians emerged out of the ensemble. Phil Martin, a 1998 Pella high graduate, has toured with the national productions of The Book of Mormon and The Lion King. He credits watching Jazz One as one reason he gravitated towards the drums. He recalls, “I remember when I was really young I would watch my brother play [in Jazz One] and I was fascinated by the drummer…I never really had interest in other instruments after that, and the rest is history.” 

Fellow 1998 graduate, Dave Keuning, was a founding member of The Killers, one of the biggest rock bands of the 21st century. Keuning was the band’s guitarist, and has frequently credited the ensemble’s performances as some of his first “gigs” in interviews. 

While it’s too early to tell what will come out of this year’s band, one thing has remained true since the early days; its members are as dedicated as ever. 

The group first assembled in October with a diverse personnel. All grades, as well as several varsity sports and clubs, are represented by the 21-piece band. Rehearsal begins at 7:05 each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and continues through April. In addition, instrument sections, such as trombones or saxophones, rehearse as a smaller group throughout the week. Unlike most high school jazz bands, the group’s setlist is constantly changing. In some instances, sheet music is handed out just a month before a performance. 

The grueling schedule is only feasible via the strong bonds members grow over the course of the year. Some highlights from the season include senior Penny Shriver playing frog games on her phone while playing the bass, senior Tyler Mifflin and Kyler Nunnikhoven tossing a worn out hacky sack at any moment, and the raucous applause following any solo performed by freshman guitarist Trent Hopkins. Even director Jeff Robilliard participated in the Jazz One spirit week leading up to the championship bout, with dress up days including Tyler Mifflin Tuesday and Fun Hat Friday. 

This camaraderie is the highlight for Senior Hunter Johnson. A transfer from Independence High School in Independence, Iowa, Johnson was thrilled to be a member of the ensemble and spend time with the members, noting, “Jazz band is so fun because of the people in it. I felt at home from the very first rehearsal.” 

Sophomore Trace Hopkins echoes this sentiment. “We have a really good time joking around,” he recalls. “There have been several fun pranks between people in our section which has given me some fun memories to look back on.”

The combination of team bonding and hard work are to be credited for the success of any group. For Jazz One in particular, this especially rings true, as the group is spending an additional three weeks together in preparation for the Iowa Bandmasters Association conference in May. Only one band is selected for this honor statewide, and the recipient is rarely a 3A school. 

Jazz One’s record of success is truly one of a kind. The group’s rich history has continued year after year while creating lifelong memories for its participants. While the close of the season is a finale for the group’s 12 seniors, there will surely be many more memorable Jazz One seasons. 

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About the Contributor
Alloree Else, Executive Web Editor
Alloree is a junior at Pella High and's Web Editor. She has been on staff for two years, and is also invoved in tennis, jazz band, and student council. She is an avid coffee drinker and could name any Hannah Montana song in 5 seconds or less.

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