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Youth come together for love of music at Kutztown Jazz Festival

Sixteen school jazz bands from across Berks converged on Kutztown for a day filled with jazz music at the annual Kutztown Jazz Festival held in the Kutztown Middle School Commons on Saturday, March 16.

Hosted by the Kutztown Area School Music Association and the Kutztown Area School District, the Kutztown Jazz Festival is a judged event featuring middle school jazz bands and high school jazz bands.

“Students, families, and community members come together over a love of music and the arts. Kutztown is proud to be a host school for such an inclusive event that fosters music in our schools and community,” said Katie Hess, KASMA vice president and event coordinator with Erica Parker and Jenny Rakus.

11 high school student musicians on a stage, most playing brass instruments.
Twin Valley High School Jazz Band won Best Trombone Section at the Kutztown Jazz Festival held at Kutztown Area Middle School on March 16, 2024. (Courtesy of Dennis Krumanocker, DK Photography)

The festival began around noon and lasted well into the evening.

“Throughout the day, attendees were enjoying upbeat music, raffle prizes, delicious homemade food and an overall pleasant setting in which to relax and take in the tunes,” said Hess.

The Jazz Festival opened with the Kutztown and Greenwich Elementary School Combined Jazz Band performing followed by middle school bands from Brandywine Heights, Spring Ford, Manheim Township, Fleetwood, Muhlenberg, Wilson West and Kutztown performing three pieces each.

“Unlike a competition, this festival is a celebration of music and the students and directors who create it,” said Hess. “Each band is evaluated by three adjudicators (Carl Zeplin, Gunnar Mossblad, and Patrick Dorian) in various musical aspects and overall effect of their performance. Awards are given for outstanding instrumental sections as well as the best overall soloists.”

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Awards were presented to Fleetwood Area Middle School Jazz Band for best saxophone section and best trumpet section and to Muhlenberg Middle School Jazz Band for best rhythm section and best trombone section.

Best overall soloists awards were presented to Manheim Township Middle School’s Gabriel Hernandez-Barban on baritone saxophone, Brandywine Heights Area Middle School’s Louis Johnson on baritone saxophone, and Muhlenberg Middle School’s Lucard Henley on tenor saxophone and Aidan Wilson on guitar.

The Jazz Festival continued that afternoon featuring high school jazz bands performing three pieces each: Brandywine Heights, Twin Valley, Oley Valley, Pocono Mountain West, Wilson, Governor Mifflin, Boyertown Jazz Ensemble, and Kutztown.

Gov. Mifflin High School Jazz Band performed at the Kutztown Jazz Festival held at Kutztown Area Middle School on March 16. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Krumanocker, DK Photography)
Gov. Mifflin High School Jazz Band performed at the Kutztown Jazz Festival held at Kutztown Area Middle School on March 16. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Krumanocker, DK Photography)
The Boyertown Jazz Ensemble from Boyertown Area Senior High performed at the Kutztown Jazz Festival held at Kutztown Area Middle School on March 16. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Krumanocker, DK Photography)
The Boyertown Jazz Ensemble from Boyertown Area Senior High performed at the Kutztown Jazz Festival held at Kutztown Area Middle School on March 16. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Krumanocker, DK Photography)

Awards were presented to Pocono Mountain High School for best saxophone section, to Wilson for best rhythm section and best trumpet section, and to Twin Valley for best trombone section.

Brandywine Heights High School's Angelina DeChristopher on trumpet won a best overall soloist award at the Kutztown Jazz Festival on March 16. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Krumanocker, DK Photography)
Brandywine Heights High School’s Angelina DeChristopher on trumpet won a best overall soloist award at the Kutztown Jazz Festival on March 16. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Krumanocker, DK Photography)

Best overall soloists awards were presented to Wilson’s Alex Ferenchick on piano, Pocono Mountain West’s Nicholas Gesualdi on alto saxophone, Brandywine Heights’ Angelina DeChristopher on trumpet, and Oley Valley’s Jackson Pawling on trumpet.

Oley Valley High School Jazz Band's Jackson Pawling on trumpet won a Best Overall Soloist award at the Kutztown Jazz Festival held at Kutztown Area Middle School on March 16. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Krumanocker, DK Photography)
Oley Valley High School Jazz Band’s Jackson Pawling on trumpet won a Best Overall Soloist award at the Kutztown Jazz Festival held at Kutztown Area Middle School on March 16. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Krumanocker, DK Photography)

Kutztown School District band directors Dustin Shirk and Kathy Mohler hosted the festival along with the KASMA event coordinators. The Masters of Ceremonies Rick Hadley and Nate Herrlin kept crowds entertained and engaged in between performances.

“This event is a culmination of coordinated efforts between the music directors of Kutztown Area School District, as well as the volunteers of the Kutztown Area School Music Association. KASMA is the district’s music booster club and supports all music programs across the district in grades K-12,” said Hess.

Food and raffle prizes raised funds for KASMA. Funds are used to purchase instruments and uniforms, as well as to fund scholarships, music trips, and senior banquet.


Source: Berkshire mont

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