Jazz Band makes festival history with fifth consecutive win


Junior Kirby Galbraith, senior Stephanie Guerrero, and senior Sophie Haney perform March 10 with Jazz Band I in Monterey, winning the top honor of the Next Gen festival.

Northgate’s jazz band will make an appearance for the fifth year in a row at the Monterey Jazz Festival, which means about a dozen graduating seniors will return for a weekend next fall to join this year’s band members.

Jazz Band I earned top honor at the Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey on March 10, a competitive festival that allows only 12 high school band performance spots from among more than 100 bands nationwide that audition by audio. This is the Northgate band’s fifth win in a row, a feat never done in over forty years of this student festival. The band will perform in September at the 61st annual Monterey Jazz Festival that attracts national and worldwide performers.

“It’s a super special feeling knowing that our jazz band has a reputation for winning and that other schools are scared to go against us. Hopefully we can continue that streak,” said percussionist Stephanie Guerrero, a senior who has played in Jazz Band all four years.

Guerrero recounted this year of hard work that led to the Monterey win, which included first in division at Folsom and Most Outstanding Band at El Cerrito.

The musicians have worked as a team and it pays off when they play as one. As a group they miss school days for several festivals a year, but they are constantly acknowledged for their works of art when they travel.

In the evening performance at Monterey, after the afternoon performance that sent the group to the finals with two other bands, Michael Arnold had a stellar solo for over three minutes behind the drums that brought uproar and applause for him and the band.

“My drum solo felt amazing,” Arnold said. “At the night concert, my solo was the one that got me a soloist award, a scholarship to the Brubeck Jazz Institute,” said Arnold, who has been awarded a scholarship to University of Nevada, Las Vegas and to the Berklee College of Music in Boston and is weighing his choices.

“I play for the people who respect me and my band mates. I always aim to make my family proud in whatever I do. Overall it was an amazing experience and I can’t wait for more,” Arnold said.
Director Greg Brown said after their win that he knew his band had a chance to make festival history that it felt “awesome”. Brown has taken a Northgate jazz band to the festival 11 times during his two decades at Northgate.

Despite a year of strong showings at performances, Brown said he was unsure how ready the group was for the Monterey event, which draws the best high school groups in the nation.“There were a lot of absences due to illness and other excused absences, and it scared me to death,” he said. “The fact that they pulled it together is a testament to their will.”

Although the year is coming to a conclusion, the group isn’t done. The year’s highlight is the group’s performance at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland May 14, where Jazz Band II will also perform.

They have goals for the rest of the season and next year that drive the flames under their feet. “Our plan for the rest of this year is to stay strong and keep our winning streak alive,” Arnold said. “We want to be able to train and make sure every person who will be in the band next year is ready to take on the responsibility necessary to be apart of this program.”