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West Hartford’s Hall High Will Celebrate 61st Annual Pops ’n Jazz

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

The 61st Annual Hall High School Pops ‘n Jazz Extravaganza will open March 8, and will feature guest performers that include alumnus Alexa Tarantino and West Hartford resident and ‘The Voice’ winner Javier Colon.

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


The 61st annual production of Pops ’n Jazz, featuring Hall High School’s acclaimed jazz bands, dancers, actors, and singers, opens March 8, with additional performances March 9, 14, 15, and 16. Doors open at 7 p.m. and performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Hall High proudly continues the musical extravaganza known as Pops ‘n Jazz which originated in 1958 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 2019 features more than 100 student performers, the school’s Concert Jazz Band, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Dancers, Choraliers (singers) and I Giovani Solisti (strings). 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’s fun filled theme, Late Night with Pops ’n Jazz, will highlight music by Earth, Wind, and Fire; Chicago; Sly and the Family Stone; Justin Timberlake; Camila Cabello; and selections from La La Land and The Greatest Showman.

In addition to the student performances, invited guests from the ranks of professional musicians appear on selected evenings. This year, featured guests include Hall High alumnus Alexa Tarantino (sax) on March 8, Wycliffe Gordon (trombone) on March 9, Javier Colon (vocals) on March 14, and New York Voices on March 16.  Participation of guest performers is supported by the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust.

Alexa Tarantino (sax), Hall class of 2010, kicks off the 2019 guest artist roster and performs on March 8. She holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree at The Juilliard School. She performs regularly as a leader and sideman in a wide variety of ensembles including Sherrie Maricle & the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Arturo O’ Farrell & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, LSAT and the Alexa Tarantino Quartet. Alexa has toured with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis.

Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), performing March 9, was a founding member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  He recently received the Louie Award by the Louis Armstrong House Museum in 2018 and received the “Best Trombone” Award in Downbeat Magazine multiple years. His arrangement of the theme song to NPR’s “All Things Considered” can be heard daily. He has been recently featured in South Australia’s Generations In Jazz 2016 and 2017, and his early works were with Wynton Marsalis.

Javier Colon (vocals), winner of Season One of NBC’s The Voice will be performing on March 14. Javier is a singer-songwriter with an “acoustic soul” style who attended the University of Hartford’s Hartt School for music education. He was a vocalist and percussionist in the soul/funk band, EmcQ, and a lead vocalist in The Derek Trucks Band. Since going solo, Javier has performed with such diverse acts as Joss Stone, Darius Rucker, the Indigo Girls, Stevie Nicks, Adam Levine, and Anthony Hamilton.

New York Voices is a critically acclaimed vocal group who have been performing together since 1987 and will perform on March 16. They are known and admired for their close-knit voicing, inspired arrangements and unparalleled vocal blend.  Along with their extensive concert performances and recording schedules, NYV also works in the field of education, giving workshops and clinics to high school and college music students around the world.

An original composition by Jen Allen will be performed by all West Hartford Elementary and Middle Schools showcased this year. Featuring up-and-coming young talent from King Philip Middle School, there will be special performances by the KP Singers (March 9), the King Philip Jazz Band (March 14), and Sixth Dimension (March 16).

On March 15, special recognition will be given to the Hall Junior Artists, which include students from Aiken, Morely, and Norfeldt, with a performance by the Aiken/Norfeldt Jazz Band. On March 8, special recognition will be given to the Hall Junior Artists from Bugbee, Smith, and Whiting Lane elementary schools in West Hartford. The Pops ’n Jazz family welcomes the Bristow Middle School Big Band to perform on stage during the March 9 performance.

Pops ’n Jazz is co-produced by James Antonucci, Hall High’s Director of Bands and Jazz Bands, and Emmett Drake, Hall and Conard’s Director of Orchestras. The Choraliers are under the direction of Hall’s Director of Choirs, Brett Boles and the Jazz Dancers are under the direction of Choreographer Tessa Grunwald. Technical Director Spencer Bazzano 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 was one of 14 national finalists in the 2018 Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis. They won six awards including Outstanding Section for Trombones and Saxophones, and individual awards for Outstanding Drummer (Tobias Siegel), Outstanding Trombone Soloist (Eli Heinen), Outstanding Bass Soloist (Gavin Gray), and Outstanding Baritone Soloist (Mike Baril).The Concert Jazz Band won first place for the third time in four years at the Berklee School of Music Jazz Festival in Boston on Jan. 26, 2019. Jason Hoops (piano) received the Berklee Outstanding Musicianship Award.

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.

Online ticketing system with ASSIGNED SEATING: The Ticket website is http://hallhighjazz.tix.com. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and are on sale online and can also be purchased in person at the Hall High box office. Box office hours will be Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Like Pops ‘n Jazz on Facebook, follow on Twitter @pops_jazz, or on Instagram @popsnjazz. For more information, please call the Pops ‘n Jazz hotline at 860-929-5151, or visit www.hallhighjazz.com.

Hall High School Jazz Band. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat

Hall High School Jazz Dancers. Photo credit: Edwin DeGroat

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