West Hartford's Hall High School Prepares for Annual Pops 'n Jazz

Hall High’s Pops ’n Jazz Extravaganza opens March 10, and will feature a New Orleans theme this year.

Hall High School Concert Jazz Band. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat

Hall High School Concert Jazz Band. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat


The 59th annual production of Pops ’n Jazz, featuring Hall High School’s acclaimed jazz bands, dancers, and singers, opens March 10, with additional performances March 11, 16, 17, and 18. 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 2017 features more than 100 student performers; the school’s Concert Jazz Band, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Dancers,  Choraliers (jazz singers) and I Giovani Solisti.  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.

This year the program will revolve around a New Orleans theme, featuring scenes and music from the Crescent City. The New Orleans theme is especially exciting for many of the students who will be traveling to New Orleans to perform in April. The production will also highlight the music of jazz icon, Charles Mingus.

Hall High is especially excited that the program will include performances of specially commissioned music written by trumpeter John Daversa, who will also appear as a special guest on March 17. Mr. Daversa’s recording Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles is nominated for three 2017 Grammy Awards. He is currently chair of Studio Music and Jazz at the Frost School of Music at University of Miami, and is the leader of the John Daversa Big Band and the John Daversa Small Band.

In addition to Daversa, another invited guest from the ranks of professional musicians, Elliot Mason (trombone) will perform on March 11, 2017. Mason is on the faculty of both Northwestern University, and New York University as a jazz trombone instructor and has performed with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the Mingus Big Band, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, and the Mason Brothers Quintet.

Finally, Hartford native and University of Hartford, Hartt School alum Shenel Johns (vocals) will join the production on March 16, 2017. An emerging talent on the New York jazz scene, Johns has performed at many notable venues and events such as Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Smoke Jazz and Supper Club, and the annual Monday Night Jazz Series in Bushnell Park.

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 Sixth Dimension (March 10), the King Philip Middle School Jazz Band (March 16), and the KP Singers (March 18). The Pops ’n Jazz family welcomes the Bristow Middle School Jazz Band to perform on stage during the March 17 performance.

On March 11, special recognition will be given to the Hall Junior Artists which, include students from Bugbee, Morley, Smith and Whiting Lane elementary schools in West Hartford. On March 18, special recognition will be given to the Hall Junior Artists, which include students from Aiken and Norfeldt.    

Pops ’n Jazz is co-produced by James Antonucci, Hall High’s Director of Bands and Jazz Bands, and Emmett Drake, Hall High’s Orchestra Director and Director of I Giovani Solisti. The Jazz Singers are under the direction of Vocal Director Lorri Cetto and the Jazz Dancers are under the direction of Choreographer Tessa Grunwald. Technical Director, Greg Scheiber, is 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 and has repeatedly been invited to the Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center.  In 2016 the Concert Jazz Band won first place at the prestigious Berklee School of Music Jazz Festival in Boston. In previous years, Hall’s 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. Four members of this year’s Concert Jazz Band were recently selected to participate in the 2017 Connecticut Music Educators Association All-State Festival.

Hall Concert Jazz Band alumni include renowned jazz musicians Jimmy Macbride (drums), Garrett Sayers (bass), Drew Sayers (sax), Richie Barshay (drums), Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Brad Mehldau (piano), Pete 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 Luis Bonilla, 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.

Ticket Website: http://hallhighjazz.tix.com. Tickets are $18 for adults and $14 for students. 

Beginning Feb. 22, 2017, tickets can be purchased in person at the Hall High box office and online. Box office hours will be MondayFriday, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 7-8:30 p.m.

Like Pops ‘n Jazz on Facebook and follow on Twitter @pop_jazz to keep updated. For more information, please call the Pops ‘n Jazz hotline at (860) 929-5151, or visit www.hallhighjazz.com.

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Hall High School Choraliers Jazz Singers. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat

Hall High School Choraliers Jazz Singers. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat

Hall High School Jazz Band. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat

Hall High School Jazz Band. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat

Hall High School Jazz Dancers. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat

Hall High School Jazz Dancers. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat

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