West Hartford’s famed musical production returns for two weekends, beginning March 13 in the Hall High School auditorium.
Submitted by Hall High School
The 57th annual production of Pops ‘n Jazz, featuring Hall High School’s acclaimed jazz bands, dancers, and singers, opens March 13, with additional performances March 14, 19, 20, and 21. Doors open at 7 p.m. and performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
Home of one of the nation’s top high school jazz programs, Hall High has produced the musical extravaganza known as Pops ‘n Jazz since 1958, when the show was originated by former band director Bill Stanley. Hall was one of the first high schools in the United States to integrate jazz into its daily curriculum, and Hall students have performed around the world.
Pops ’n Jazz 2015 features more than 100 student performers, the school’s Concert Jazz Band, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Dancers, and Choraliers (jazz singers). The program, which varies slightly each night, offers an array of American jazz classics from all eras, performed in big band and combo settings, highly choreographed jazz productions, and featured solo performances.
The show is known for its eclectic blend of music, ranging from traditional and progressive jazz to pop-rock and Broadway. Among this year’s highlights will be a Michael Jackson retrospective that includes the early hit, “I Want You Back,” then jumps a decade to “Beat It,” and wraps up with the iconic “Thriller.”
In the second act, the Broadway blockbuster Chicago is the source of a crowd-pleasing medley― “All That Jazz,” “Roxie,” “Razzle Dazzle,” and “Honey Rag” ―featuring the soloists, singers, dancers, and the Concert Jazz Band.
In addition to the student performances, invited guests from the ranks of professional musicians appear on selected evenings. This year, featured guests include Sheryl Bailey (guitar) on March 14, Hall High alumnus Doug Perry (percussion) on March 19, and Luis Bonilla (trombone) on March 20. Participation of guest performers is supported by the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust.
Showcasing up-and-coming young talent from King Philip Middle School, there will be special performances by the KP Singers (March 13 and 21), the King Philip Jazz Band (March 19), and Sixth Dimension (March 20). On March 14, special recognition will be given to the Pops ’n Jazz Elementary All-Stars, which include students from Aiken, Whiting Lane, Bugbee, Norfeldt, Morley, and Smith elementary schools in West Hartford.
Pops ’n Jazz is produced by Haig Shahverdian, former Supervisor/Consultant of Fine and Performing Arts for the West Hartford Schools, and James Antonucci, Hall High’s Director of Bands and Jazz Bands. The Jazz Singers are under the direction of Vocal Director Lorri Cetto and the Jazz Dancers are under the direction of choreographers Tessa Grunwald and Bryan Smith. Hall High Tech Club students are responsible for stage management, lighting, and audio. Additional assistance is provided by Hall High parents, teachers, and staff.
The West Hartford Public Schools have received the Kennedy Center Award for Excellence in Arts Education in recognition of their program. The Hall Concert Jazz Band has performed at the White House, has repeatedly been invited to the Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center, and has repeatedly won first place at the Berklee School of Music Jazz Festival in Boston. The Concert Jazz Band has been honored with a Downbeat award for “Best Big Band” and Hall’s Jazz Singers have placed first at the Berklee Jazz Festival.
Hall Concert Jazz Band alumni include renowned jazz musicians Richie Barshay (drums), Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Brad Mehldau (piano), Erica vonKleist (alto sax), Peter McGuinness (trombone), Noah Preminger (tenor sax), Patrick Zimmerli (tenor sax), and Gregg Kallor (piano).
Through the years, the Concert Jazz Band has performed with some of the finest jazz artists in the world, including Phil Woods, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Randy Brecker, Jimmy Heath, Bob Mintzer, Marvin Stamm, Dionne Warwick, Kurt Elling, Curtis Fuller, and the Count Basie and Woody Herman Orchestras.
Through March 7, tickets are priced at $13. After Saturday, March 7, student tickets (for ages 18 and younger) will remain at $13, and all other tickets will be $16. Beginning February 23, tickets can be purchased in person at the Hall High box office and online at www.hallhighjazz.com. Box office hours will be Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 7-8:30 p.m. For more information, please call the Pops ‘n Jazz hotline at (860) 929-5151, or visit www.hallhighjazz.com.