Jazz Band Closes Season With Pedmall Concert


Matisse Arnone

City High Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Collective performed for the final time this year on May 20th

Matisse Arnone

Dusk approaches in downtown Iowa City. On the ped mall, passers-by can hear the sounds of a cooling saxophone melody. The City High Jazz Ensemble warms up for their final performance of the year at the annual Friday Night Concert Series. Aaron Ottmar directs Jazz Collective and Jazz Ensemble, who both had their final performance of the school year.

“For years now, the high school jazz bands in the district have started off the Friday concert series. It hasn’t been in person for three years, so it was awesome to be back in person doing it,” Ottmar said. “It’s cool to be able to play in a different kind of atmosphere instead of a very formal, competitive performance setting.”

Molly Riepe ‘23 plays tenor saxophone in Jazz Ensemble. She said that she enjoyed getting to hear bands from the other high schools at this performance, as well as the low-stress, casual environment.

“I liked that it was dark and it was just kind of a different environment. It was just a fun, low-key, but still public kind of way to end the season,” Riepe said. “I don’t think that I’m concerned about our performance at all, just because it was more of a fun thing.”

Ottmar agrees that the atmosphere made it a fun concert to end the year. He also thinks that being able to play for a new energetic audience made a difference for the students.

“It’s a lot more casual, and you’re reaching a different audience that you probably wouldn’t otherwise reach,” Ottmar said. “It’s not just that we’re playing downtown. It’s that we’re playing downtown for people that are supportive of the arts. Our groups enjoyed being able to do that, and I think that showed in their playing.”

Although there is the sadness that comes from the departing seniors, Riepe says it feels good to have a break from jazz after working hard all year.

“It’s a little bit sad, just because I know that we’ll never play with this specific group again, but it is kind of nice because we’ve been going for a long time. Jazz Ensemble starts earlier than the other bands do, and we go way longer than other bands,” Riepe said.

Reflecting on the year, Ottmar agreed that it is nice to finally be done, but he added that there was a feeling of strangeness too that came as a result of the return to a more normal year after the pandemic.

“It does feel weird that we’re done because we just got back to being used to doing all these performances, competitions, concerts, and now it’s done,” Ottmar said.

Riepe says that this year has allowed her to know what to expect and wants to continue the progress that she and the band have made.

“I’m looking forward to just having another shot at all the competitions that we went to, and seeing what we’re capable of next year,” Riepe said. “I think we’ll be more critical of our playing and more aware of what we need to work on because now we know the level that we need to play at to be successful.”

Ottmar also thinks that this year has been really helpful for everyone in getting back into a routine. 

“I think now that we all have this year under our belt and are getting used to it again, people know kind of what to expect,” Ottmar said. “We were at this level, and now that we know kind of what to expect, we want to go for this higher level.”

He says that having a large amount of returning seniors will allow the band to continue to build on the momentum that they gained this year.

“I think the beautiful thing with what we do is that it’s not even though it’s a different group, there’s a lot of students that are the same. It’s not that like we have to restart by any means,” Ottmar said. “I think we just want to take the momentum from this year and continue to go forward and reach higher heights with our level of jazz musicianship.”