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Junior high bands sizzlin’ at Jazz Fest

POULSBO — For the record, Poulsbo Junior High opened the junior-high portion of the Viking Jazz Festival with a swinging tune entitled, appropriately enough, “Front Burner.”

And Kingston Junior High ended the first day with “Down Home Cookin’,” a tune director Jeff Haag calls a “jazz rock funk number.”

Between those two sets, 13 jazz bands from around the northwest took the stage at the North Kitsap Community Auditorium to perform in the jazz festival, which continued Friday with performances by the high school bands.

Poulsbo Junior High hosted the event, and kicked off the morning session with two more songs besides “Front Burner.”

The band also performed a ballad called “The Last Dance,” and a driving number called “Hot Java Jump.”

“They played well,” PJH director Bryce Adams said of the 23-member band.

Each band performed for 20 minutes, then spent 20 more minutes with a clinician — a music teacher who listened to the performance, then offered tips, suggestions and critiques for the band.

Adams said slyly, “With them, you get new ideas and highlights. And it’s always fun when he says the same things I say.”

Adams’ students enjoyed participating.

“I like playing jazz,” said Emily Wallgren.

“I like getting out of school,” said Clark Knowlen, who played the bari sax during the Panthers’ performance.

“That’s a plus, too,” said Wallgren, amending her answer.

After Poulsbo’s performance, bands from both sides of the water were next. Each band was well-prepared, ready to play, and most of all, well-dressed: Kingston, for example, wore white shirts and ties.

The other bands includes Rose Hill, Timbercrest, Northshore, Gateway, Kent, Einstein, Marysville, Eisenhower, Heatherwood, Illahee, Redmond, Kirkland, and Leota Junior High.

“It’s a chance to play, and a chance to listen to other bands,” said KJH band director Jeff Haag.

In fact, Haag made listening more than a luxury for his band: he made it a homework assignment, handing out critique sheets to his students and asking them to grade other bands that performed in the afternoon.

When it was time for Kingston to take the stage, Haag played as many students as possible, rotating musicians in and out of the large Cavalier band.

The band played “Honky Tonk Shuffle,” “Castine,” and closed out the show with “Down Home Cookin’.”

“This is a chance for them to show off the skills and talents they’ve developed,” Haag said.

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