Jazz Band Performs at State Capitol


Matisse Arnone

The City High Jazz Ensemble performs one of their charts on the floor of the Iowa House Chamber.

Located just outside the heart of downtown Des Moines, the Iowa State Capitol building is known for being a place where legislators pass bills that become state laws. It also happens to be the latest performance site for the City High Jazz Ensemble. Nora Gibson ‘23 plays tenor saxophone in Jazz Ensemble, and the performance was her first time in the state capitol building.

“It was already a super cool experience for me to be able to go into the chamber, and not even to go into the chamber but to play in the chamber,” Gibson said. “I’ve seen it on TV and on YouTube many times but actually being in the space – it’s massive. Being able to do something that I love in this beautiful space was a really cool experience.”

Jazz band director Aaron Ottmar thinks that the band didn’t let the thrill of performing in an intimidating new environment affect their overall performance.

“I think at first we felt maybe a little nervous, but I think we got over that pretty quickly as we got more comfortable with our surroundings,” Ottmar said. “I’d say especially the soloists today were really, really good with what they played. It was a really fun time, for sure.”

Gibson agrees that it was a great opportunity to showcase the repertoire that they have been working on throughout the competition season.

“Our performance went very well. We’re at a point in our jazz band season where we know the songs almost by heart, and even after spring break, we can still come back together with very little practice and play our songs super well,” Gibson said.

The honor of getting to perform music in the state capitol building was not taken lightly by any members of the band, according to Ottmar.

“I think everybody [felt] a combination of shock, pure joy, and excitement because it is not something that your typical performance group does,” Ottmar said. “Just thinking about the weight of that honor – it is something I think that we were all very proud to do. Not only to represent our program, our school but our community, and high schoolers in Iowa.”

Gibson hopes that this performance will help to keep the band motivated as they look to finish out the year strong.

“I think that this performance will really boost some confidence about ourselves because our reputation led us to be invited to perform here, and I think that all of us realize how much of an honor that was. Not every school gets to do this,” Gibson said.

Not only does Ottmar think this performance can help Jazz Ensemble for the end of the year, but he also hopes that it can help increase awareness about high school performing arts programs to state legislators.

“It was cool to be reminded of that high standard of performance that we want to have,” Ottmar said. “I hope that it helps promote the arts even more so at the legislative level in the state. I hope that they remember and see the importance firsthand of the arts in the public school setting.”