City High’s Jazz Ensemble Continues Participation in Tradition of KCCK Corridor Jazz Project


Jazz Ensemble students play for the KCCK Corridor Jazz Project

Julius Perez, Opinion Editor

Manny Kaine ‘22 had wild eyes as he belted out his solo, his bluesy phrases filling the jazz club-esque room. It seemed as if he was blowing with his whole body, pushing all the air from his lungs through the saxophone and into the cool red and blue lights that emanated from the ceilings and walls. A camera operator leaned more closely to Kaine with every booming riff, bearing down on his horn, lens barely feet away. 

“I think it went really well,” Molly Riepe ‘23 said. “We were a bit nervous and thrown off for our first take, but then once we got more comfortable with the surroundings and all the recording equipment and everything I think we sounded a lot better.”

The Corridor Jazz Project is a recording and performance opportunity provided to high school bands in Iowa by KCCK-FM. Directors of each band choose a guest artist to record with the band for the project. The professional setting and ambiance of the Opus Concert Café combined with having an accomplished jazz musician play with the band made this performance different for some members of City High’s Jazz Ensemble.

“This was more serious [than other performances],” Ashley Kelly ‘23 said. “I think everyone felt that in the room.”

 This was Jazz Ensemble’s second show of the year, the only other being the Winter Show in December. “I think the performance on Wednesday night was a lot better than the Winter Show,” Riepe said. “We just had more time to prepare and we were more mentally ready for what we were going to be playing.” 

This jazz season, the Ensemble is taking extra steps to better prepare for competitions and be more collected as a band. Aaron Ottmar, the band’s director, has a list of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ for the band to focus on, including working on improvisation more, holding more sectionals, and staying focused during rehearsals. A sectional is when certain instruments from the band work on their particular part of a tune. 

“We’re really trying to make sure the smaller parts are fitting together correctly and sorting out all those minor details,” Riepe said. “Sectionals can really help with that.” 

In previous years, Jazz Ensemble has been an award-winning band, with alumni going on to study and/or play jazz and music in college. Some students feel the weight on their shoulders when trying to fill the shoes of a high-achieving band. 

“I feel like there’s definitely a little bit of unspoken pressure. As a  freshman, I know that I definitely looked up to the band that year. And they were really good… I remember talking to people who are in the same section as me freshman year and wanting to be as good as them,” Kelly said. 

However, Ottmar has made it clear that the musicians should prioritize being the best band they can be rather than only comparing themselves to previous years’ groups. 

“[Ottmar] definitely reassured us,” Riepe said. “I think he’s aware that past bands have been really good, but he also knows that we can be a great band.”