Pella High School has a Jazz Band program that includes two different ensembles, Jazz One and Jazz Two. Jazz One is considered varsity while Jazz Two is considered junior varsity, so it rare that freshmen are chosen to be a part of Jazz One. This year’s Jazz One Ensemble includes three freshmen: Alexa Gaylor on piano, Ean Stark on guitar, and Riley Sorheim on tenor saxophone. For Sorheim, this experience has been very rewarding.
“At first, I was nervous to be working with such talented musicians like Hanna Blom and Annaleigh Babcock, but everyone has been so welcoming to the freshmen,” said Sorheim. “At times it can be more difficult because I do not have as much jazz experience as the other members, but I can learn a lot from both Mr. Place and my section leaders. It has been great to develop close relationships with students in other grades who I wouldn’t normally talk to.”
Unlike Jazz Two, students must audition to be a part of the Jazz One Ensemble. Not every student that auditioned for Jazz One made it. However, Sorheim was willing to go through the audition process and was successful.
“I was given a piece of jazz music that was not very difficult. All I had to do was practice a few weeks beforehand and then play the piece in front of Mr. Place,” said Sorheim. “When it comes to jazz music, you have to really focus on articulation and style. My normal instrument is the alto sax, but there were only two alto spots available this year and many people tried out. I ended up trying out on the tenor and alto sax and got the tenor part. I was so excited, and playing the tenor is different but really fun!”
Pella High’s Jazz Ensembles have already had a few competitions, but there are still more to come. One of the biggest competitions that is coming up is the Iowa Jazz Championships, which takes place in April. Sorheim has never been to Jazz Champs before, and she knows she will be nervous. She also knows that the band is awesome and that it will be a lot of fun.
“Jazz 1 is like a family and we work really well together,” said Sorheim. “We have so many inside jokes and stories, and we laugh all the time. I love when we finish a performance and the audience cheers and you know you engaged them in great music the entire time.”