By Tyler BIDDLE
A resounding success! That was Jazz Night at the Café hosted by Crescenta Valley High School Instrumental Music on Saturday. Over 150 people turned up at the event, more than doubling last year’s attendance. The night was a true generational melting pot as both young and old faces livened up the dance floor with professional grade swing jazz tunes played by the CVHS Jazz Band. The evening was in large part thanks to parent volunteers like Bryce and Melissa Hancock.
Decorations included balloons and stars hanging from the ceiling and an enormous midnight city backdrop for the band. Many dancers also brought their own form of decoration with polka dot dresses, swing shoes and suspenders.
The band played songs like “When I Fall in Love,” “In the Mood,” “April in Paris,” and the ever popular crowd pleaser, “Sing Sing Sing.”
“This is a very independent group of students,” said Matt Schick, the CV High School music director. Throughout the night Schick would simply call the song, set the tempo for a few moments and the band would take off on its own.
A group swing dance lesson was provided by Lisa Clyde, who was sporting a polka dot dress and vibrant red hair. This was her third year teaching swing for Jazz Night at the Café. Schick and Clyde were able to tag team the eager dancers with music and instruction. While Clyde demonstrated basic steps, how to stand, and arm positions, Schick’s band would rest and prepare for the next few songs. Then Schick would start up the music and Clyde got the chance watch her students try out their new moves.
Swing dancing does not come naturally to most high school students and in years past, lessons were not always offered at the event.
“The students were ecstatic after the dance,” said Bryce Hancock regarding the addition of the lessons. “They felt like they knew what they were doing.”
Lessons provided a sense of confidence for the swing newbies and by the end of the night the floor was full of dancers who were comfortable with the style. Daniel, a senior at the high school who had never danced swing before, was moving like a pro by the end of the night.
“It’s in my blood,” he said.
Alumni and guest appearances also peppered the night. The band, usually made up of 23 students, was supplemented by five or six alumni players including piano player and guitarist Jonathan Sim. Sim, who also provided vocals for some of the pieces performed, graduated in June and is now studying music at USC.
Randy Drake also made a special guest appearance, playing drums during “Sing Sing Sing.” Drake is a professional musician who has helped coach some of Schick’s students.
Crescenta Valley Instrumental Music accepts Paypal donations at its website: www.falconmusic.org. Donations help pay for instrument repairs and purchases, transportation, uniforms, entrance fees for competitions and festivals and more.