Vikings jazz it up at next week's festival

It’s time to dust off that old French horn.

It’s time to start whistling your favorite Dixieland number.

It’s time to fit your lips around one of the funniest and most apt words in the English language — “tuba.”

That’s because it’s less than a week until the Viking Jazz Festival.

The festival will kick off on Thursday, Jan. 31 with 16 junior high bands performing at the Kitsap Community Auditorium, including those of Poulsbo and Kingston Junior High.

The older kids will get their chance to play Friday, Feb. 1, as 24 jazz bands, including some of the state’s top representatives, will crowd their way into North Kitsap to play.

The event will culminate with the 7 p.m. Friday performance, which will feature the winners from the morning and afternoon’s competition, as well as the North Kitsap jazz band, who, as host, will get to play, but not compete.

Many of the 23 members of the jazz band will come away from the experience with new memories.

Some of them already have them.

“My first Viking Jazz Festival was nerve-wracking,” said alto saxophone player Joel Wallgren.

Wallgren remembers having to step in for a soloist who couldn’t perform, and remembers the heart-stopping nervousness that hit him as the junior-high teacher pointed at him, then pointed at the microphone at which he would be playing.

But now Wallgren is a veteran.

“You make friends with the bands every year,” he said. “you get to have lunch with them. It’s funny; they don’t know where to go. You’ll go to McDonald’s and see 70 people. Then you’ll go into Burger King and see 80.”

If North Kitsap residents want to avoid the fast-food restaurants for a day, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t miss the final performance, which the Vikings have spent the entire year preparing for.

Kolby Hoover, who plucks away at the stand-up bass for the band, will take part in his fourth Viking Jazz fest.

“Playing is my favorite part — and listening to the other bands,” he said. “A lot of really good bands come to this.”

While the Thursday and Friday afternoon performances are free, the final competition, which will feature six bands, will cost $8. That money is a fund raiser for the Viking Jazz Band, which will use it to fund trips and performances elsewhere in the state and nation.

To prepare, the North Kitsap musicians have been working on three songs, including one complicated number, “Caravan,” which they have been practicing since the beginning of the year.

“This is the first performance of the year that’s a strictly jazz venue,” said instructor Sara Weyrick. “I think they look forward to it for that reason.”

Besides practicing, Weyrick said, many of the musicians are volunteering at the festival, which will make it a long day for some of them, who will begin rehearsal at 6:30 a.m. and won’t end their day until 10 p.m. or later.

Despite all the hard work, the students are looking forward to it.

Leah Harrell, who will be in her fifth Viking Jazz Festival, said, “Whenever we’re on stage we’ve got a lot of energy.”

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