8th grader Jazz Lab band FAQ


This page is designed to answer the most FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about joining the Jazz Lab Band or being a participant in the Lake Zurich Jazz program.

If your question is not answered here, send Mr. Thompson an email and he will answer it ASAP. 
If you prefer, call Mr. Thompson at 847-540-5901 during the school day. Email will receive an almost immediate reply.
A great way to be informed of events and issues related to the jazz studies area is to JOIN OUR E-MAIL LIST by e-mailing Mr. Thompson
Q 1. How many students participate in the Jazz Lab Band?
A. The size of the Jazz Lab Band has ranged over the years from 20 to 30. A typical size jazz ensemble (such as our Jazz Ensemble) has 5 saxes, 4 or 5 trombones, 4 or 5 trumpets, plus the rhythm section. With the exception of rhythm players, we try to accept everyone into Jazz Lab Band who plays trumpet, trombone or saxophone, but auditions may be necessary if there are too many of a particular instrument to make the playing experience both musical and worthwhile. When there are auditons, they will be worked out by Mr. Thompson (See below)

Q 2. How many students are in the LZ Jazz Program?
A.  The Jazz Ensemble has a more standard instrumentation than listed above. When we add an extra person on each of the rhythm section instruments, the upperclass jazz ensembles then have approximately 20-25 members. This means that we have around 45-50 students enrolled in our two curricular jazz ensembles.

Q 3.  What are the two jazz ensembles called?
A.  Jazz Lab Band -mostly freshmen and sophomores with some juniors and an occasional senior.

Jazz Ensemble - almost all juniors and seniors, with an occasional sophomore.

Q 5. Are there auditions for pianists, drummers, bass players and guitarists?

A. Yes… The audition information is available at 
Jazz Lab Band Auditions

Q 6. Why can't you take all the rhythm section players who want to join like you do wind players?
A.  Since the group only performs three or four musical selections per concert, if we take more rhythm instruments than that, it would mean that a student would go for months without playing in a concert. There also can be as many as 4-5 guitarists or drummers on any given year that want to join Jazz Lab Band. If we took everyone and only one drummer can play at a time during rehearsals, a student might only play once a week! This wouldn't be fair to anyone.
Two is our limit of pianos we can have in our rehearsal rooms. The same is true of guitar amps. We can handle only so many guitarists playing at one time per amplifier before it is just not a musical experience for anyone.

Q 7. If a rhythm section player does not "make it" for Jazz Lab Band, can they re-audition the following year?
A. Absolutely. In fact, we regularly have a few students return for consideration in the Spring for the following school year. Some of these students are accepted, which keeps the burden on the students who are in the jazz bands to continue to practice and improve. Everyone re-auditions in the Spring for placement in a jazz ensemble.

Q 8. Are there auditions for saxophones, trombones or trumpets to get into Jazz Lab Band?

A. Sometimes auditions are necessary if there are too many of a particular instrument to make the performance experience musically and educationally worthwhile.  These auditions are explained here… 
Jazz Lab Band Audition Info  You student should be alerted to the need for auditions by their middle school director or Mr. Thompson

Q 9.  How would my son or daughter know if they have to have an audition on a rhythm instrument, and what would the audition consist of?
A.  Assuming you are enrolled in Jazz Lab Band, it is best if you touch base with Mr. Thompson if you are a pianist, guitarist, or bassist. Regardless, if an audition is necessary, Mr. Thompson will contact you. If you are not enrolled then we have no way of knowing about you.
The audition material is Jazz Lab Band Audition Info. You may audition in person or send in a recording of your playing. You should also demonstrate your knowledge of jazz chords and improvisation on the recording if you can.  Drummers will be asked to demonstrate several jazz styles and play along with the recording.

Q 10.  Which is better, sending in a recording or playing in person?
A.  Either is fine. In-person auditions caused many students to not do well because they were nervous. But in person auditions make communication much easier. Whatever makes the student most comfortable to do their best is what we want.
A taped audition puts all the variables under the control of the students. It makes little difference about the quality of the tape recorder. The most important factors recorded on the tape is style, correct notes, and correct rhythms. Those items can be evaluated regardless of the quality of the tape recorder.

Q 11. What if I do not qualify for Jazz Lab Band? Will there be time to change my class registration to another class?
A. This has never been a problem in the past. Once we finish auditions in February/March they are heard as quickly as possible and a decision is made. At this point a student would drop the class for a study hall in place of Jazz Lab Band by contacting the Guidance Department. This is why we suggest adding an 8th class, rather than opting for a study hall. It is much easier to drop classes than add them.

Q 12.  What is the "concurrent enrollment" policy and why does it exist?

A. The Music Department also offers several courses with a prerequisite that another class (performance ensemble) be taken concurrently. The concurrent enrollment policy in the Music Department has been the policy for many years and is the norm not only in our area but also nationally. Students are not required to participate in the classes that require concurrent enrollment, but chose to do so out of a desire to receive additional instruction or a more advanced, well-rounded music education.
Music Department Ensembles Requiring Concurrent Enrollment/  
·                     Membership in the Symphony Orchestra for wind and percussion players requires students to also be enrolled in a concert band or wind ensemble.
·                     Membership in the Bare Voices! or Blue Notes requires students to also be enrolled in any other mixed choir.
·                     Membership in any jazz ensemble requires students to also be also enrolled in a band (for wind and percussion players). Pianists Bassists and guitarists are exempt from this requirement since music is not regularly published or available for those instruments in a band or orchestra.

A young musician-in-training learns the basic knowledge of musicianship, balance, blend, large ensemble repertoire, traditional music notation, performance styles, more advanced keys, more advanced metric meters, and characteristic tone production in a large ensemble such as concert band, orchestra, or traditional mixed choral ensemble. Performance experience in these larger ensembles is critical if a student is to be considered a well-rounded, well-educated musician upon leaving Lake Zurich High School .

Most students at the ninth grade level or later do not know what their major will be when they attend college and they may not develop an interest in majoring in music until as late as their senior year. If Lake Zurich allowed a student to only play/sing in a smaller instrumental or vocal jazz ensemble and not participate in a concert band/traditional mixed choral ensemble, the student would neither be prepared for, nor accepted into a reputable music school after high school. 
Performance skills unique to jazz, such as improvisation or playing with the jazz inflection associated with vocal or instrumental jazz music, are not usually or best taught in large ensembles. Therefore, a jazz ensemble, Bare Voices or Blue Notes is a smaller performance ensemble that focuses on specialized instruction rather than the development of the basic skills listed above. Participating in a jazz ensemble, Bare Voices or Blue Notes has the students take the basic skills they learn in a large ensemble to those smaller groups to adapt those skills to performance in a jazz style. Thus, to allow a student to only be in a jazz ensemble and not be concurrently enrolled in a concert band would be similar to someone taking only “elective” classes and never enrolling in the more traditional academic subjects. Jazz performance is considered by music educators to be an optional extra skill open to a student who is already a well-rounded music student. There are differences in the actual music studied by jazz groups and larger concert bands. For example, music played in instrumental jazz groups is almost always written using just three or four key signatures. Concert band or orchestral music regularly uses all twelve major or minor keys. Also, jazz music performed at the high school level seldom uses rhythms more advanced than eighth notes or eighth rests. Concert band or orchestral music regularly uses rhythms written with sixteenth notes or faster.
Symphony Orchestra classes provide an additional opportunity for wind and percussion players, but traditional orchestral music often requires them to perform less frequently during a particular piece of music (or rehearsal) than they would when playing a piece of music studied by a concert band or wind ensemble. In fact, time in an orchestra class is often spent teaching and developing the string section rather than teaching fundamental wind or percussion performance skills that are more readily taught in a concert band. Therefore, while a wind and percussion player can elect to enrich their ensemble experience by participating in an orchestra ensemble, they must be concurrently enrolled in a band or wind ensemble to learn fundamental skills and band repertoire.

Q 13. Can a flute (or clarinet) player join Jazz Lab Band?
A.  The short answer is yes and no.  Yes, if that person also plays saxophone, and no, if that person only plays the flute (or clarinet). The reason is that published music for jazz ensembles of ninth grade ability level almost never have flute parts. If there are flute parts they are played by members of the saxophone section. 
At the junior high school level it is common for directors to take everyone who wants to play in a jazz ensemble. This could include clarinetists, oboists, etc. At the high school level it is the norm for those players to also play (or double on) saxophone. In fact it is highly encouraged in Jazz Ensemble that they be able to play either the clarinet or flute in addition to mastering their saxophone. Colleges regularly require saxophonists to double on another woodwind instrument before they will be allowed to audition for a jazz ensemble. Saxophonists who double on another woodwind instrument are better prepared for post-high school success.

Q 14. How can a student schedule BOTH Jazz Lab Band and Freshman Concert Band ?

A. Since Lake Zurich has a nine-period day, it is easy to find time to schedule two music classes, especially if you choose not to take a study hall. There are numerous students who have two or and even three music classes during the day.  For a sample freshmen schedule,
Freshmen Schedule

Q 18.  How hard is the music in Jazz Lab Band? How much will I have to practice to keep up?

A.  The difficulty of the music depends on the ability of the students in any given year. In general, we begin the year with "grade 3" music similar to what you played in junior high school. As the year progresses our goal is to perform a few "grade 4" selections on the Spring Jazz Concert.
If you are someone who likes to practice your instrument and you were successful at playing the music performed at your junior high school, then you will be very successful at Lake Zurich in the Music Department. A person who doesn't practice outside of class time will not be successful in ANY school music group ANYWHERE. Natural talent will only take a young player so far. Home practice helps a student to not only keep up, but excel... thus having more fun and contributing to advancement of the entire group!

Q 19. How good of a player should a person be to join the Jazz Lab Band?
A. The most important traits of a successful member in any LZ music ensemble is a positive attitude with a willingness to learn (teachable) and try new musical concepts. Students with outstanding performance abilities will not succeed if they do not have a positive, helpful, and teachable attitude.
Having said that... a student will be required to practice at home. The music that is performed in our groups is just too difficult to learn only in class. Home practice and the help of a private teacher will go far to being successful in the Lake Zurich Music Department.
By the middle of the first quarter, most students in past Jazz Lab Band practiced 4 or 5 times a week, and probably 30 minutes per practice session. Many students who did not practice much in junior high school find themselves to be more motivated at high school and raise their quantity and quality of home practice.

Q 21. Are there afterschool or evening rehearsals for Lake Zurich jazz ensembles?

A.  Never! (period) We have plenty of time during the school day to perfect our music assuming you PRACTICE AT HOME. 

Q 22. How many concerts are there each year?

A.   We have three major concerts a year. The Fall Jazz Concert is usually the first or second week in December; the Winter Jazz Concert is usually the first week in March; and the Spring Jazz Concert is the third week in May.
Attendance at these concerts is required for successful participation. In fact, according to longstanding music department policy, a student who has an unexcused absence from a concert will have their quarter grade lowered. Concerts are our "laboratory" or "final exams" and these experiences (or experiments) can never be replicated in the classroom. A complete performance schedule is distributed the first week of class in all music groups.
Additionally, the Jazz Lab Band performs at two jazz festivals, the New Trier Jazz Festival, (the first Saturday in February) and the Rolling Meadows Jazz Festival (the last Saturday in Februrary)
There may be additional performances added, but each will be done so with a considerable amount of class discussion and advanced notice.

Q 23. When does Jazz Lab Band rehearse?
A. We rehearse every school day for one 44-minute period during the day. We have no conflicts with before or after school clubs or sports. In fact, many of the members of Lake Zurich's jazz ensembles are very successful members of the school's sports teams, or after school activities.

Q 24. How are grades determined for Jazz Lab Band?
A.  During the first week of school we will spend much time talking about the grading policy. Basically speaking and in line with all the music department classes, everyone automatically gets a grade of "B" for doing the minimum. (Showing up to class on time, practicing at home, performing your music to a high level, having all materials necessary to rehearse and perform, etc.) A grade of "A" is reserved that show superior skill performing the music, being a role model to others in the class, and taking a "playing test" where you individually demonstrate your ability to perform the music at a high level in front of the director or the class.
There are also several written tests on rhythm or terms that figure into the final grade.

Q 25. If my child decides not to take Jazz Lab Band, but decides he wants to take jazz in his sophomore year, will he or she be able to get in?
A. If a student improves on his instrument and demonstrates a positive attitude toward learning, he is a good candidate for joining the band even as a sophomore. This is less likely if the student plays drums or guitar since we regularly have too many of those instruments who enroll in each year's Jazz Lab Band. It will be much less of a problem for a trumpet or trombone player to join as a Sophomore.
The short answer is... it is far better to start out in the jazz program as a Freshman than to join later since we learn a LOT of very important basic skills in Jazz Lab Band that will develop much further over four years than two or three.

Q 28. What is the value in participating in a high school music ensemble?

A. You might find these four links interesting...

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