Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Gunn jazz bands perform at New Orleans festival

Courtesy+of+Tiffany+Ou-Ponticelli
Courtesy of Tiffany Ou-Ponticelli

From Feb. 28 to March 4, Gunn’s jazz bands traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, to perform at the 54th Annual Loyola University Jazz Ensemble Festival. The students also received feedback from jazz professionals and toured the city.

Gunn’s jazz bands include two courses — Jazz Band and Jazz Ensemble Honors — taught by Gunn Jazz Director Shawn McGinn and Gunn Band Director Todd Summers.

According to McGinn, the festival was an important opportunity for his students to grow musically and experience the city in which jazz music originated. 

“The festival is a chance to perform for an audience,” he said. “In that audience, there are professional players and teachers who give you feedback on your performance to help make you a better group. New Orleans is very important to the history of jazz music in particular because the original types of jazz came together in New Orleans.”

Percussionist sophomore Brandon Seow was excited when he learned that he had the opportunity to go to New Orleans.

“My initial reaction was coming to terms with the fact that we were actually going to New Orleans,” Seow said. “The place has such a mystical vibe to it, so actually being able to go to the area where jazz started was insane.”

Besides performing for hundreds of audience members, Gunn’s jazz bands were able to tour parts of the city. To McGinn, the most exciting part of the trip was experiencing the daily culture of New Orleans.

 “You’ll hear performers playing in all the large cities in the U.S., but none playing jazz music on every corner throughout like in New Orleans,” he said. “It’s very special in that way. You walk down the street and there is live music surrounding you. That’s the kind of world that I want to live (in).”

According to Seow, each day in New Orleans was packed with performances and activities.

“For me, it was an early start every single day, so it was exhausting, but in a good way,” he said. “Some of the highlights, besides being able to explore a beautiful city with my friends, included playing at Loyola University, as well as attending two concerts in Preservation Hall, a very historically rich place, where we were able to listen to and watch some of the best jazz musicians in New Orleans.”

While alto saxophonist sophomore Margaret Beery agrees that touring the city was rewarding, she also appreciated building stronger connections with bandmates.

“My favorite moments outside of performing were ones spent with my friends, whether that was hanging out at the hotel, eating meals or talking on the bus,” she said. “Generally, just getting to know my bandmates better as people.”

Still, there were some setbacks on the travel back. According to Beery, the flight plan back to California was changed due to bad weather. The bands ultimately flew from Louisiana to Orlando, Florida, and then to Las Vegas for an overnight stay before flying home the morning of March 4, a day later than planned. 

“It wasn’t very fun in the moment, but I think those little hardships that we had together bonded our group really well,” McGinn said.

According to McGinn, the most important part of the experience was gaining a new perspective both on music and the world.

“(Immersing) yourself in a culture of music that is different than your own is super important to do, because when you engage in the other you get a new perspective,” he said. “Once you understand more than just your little bubble, you see how another way to live might feel.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the jazz bands’ travel delays. The jazz bands’ flight from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Orlando, Florida, was delayed due to incumbent weather. The bands then flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, taking two more flights to Orange County and Oakland. Their bags, however, remained in Las Vegas and were shipped to SFO before being delivered to Gunn on March 5. 

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Roy Lao, Reporter
Sophomore Roy Lao is a reporter for The Oracle. If not at school or at diving practice, he's speedrunning homework or talking with friends.
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