Waukee High School Jazz One Wins Jazz Championships

On April 5, Waukee High School’s Jazz One band competed against the top 60 bands in the state and finished in first place in the 4A category at the 2018 Iowa Jazz Championships at CY Stephens Auditorium.

JazzOne“A title can’t express the incredible band we’ve become the band that took the stage that night. 4A Jazz Champions is pretty much as close as it gets,” said senior Kaelyn Brooks who has been a part of the top jazz ensemble at Waukee High School since sophomore year.

Each year, Waukee High School’s jazz bands compete at district jazz competitions in order to qualify for a state title. This was Waukee’s eleventh consecutive year finishing in the top three at state.

“When we took the stage at finals, there were no nerves. I remember looking around and seeing everyone around me smiling from ear-to-ear with a joy that cannot be expressed except through playing music, which is exactly what we did,” Brooks said.

The band is directed by Chris Strohmaier, who also instructs sophomore concert band and marching band.

“Mr. Strohmaier has poured so much into us, not just as students but as people. I don’t know if he’ll ever understand just how much of an impact he truly made. This band would not be what is today without him,” Brooks said.

Several of the members of the band have been a part of Waukee Community School District jazz bands since middle school.  “As a senior, I’ve been working for six years in all the middle school jazz bands up to now, and this is the capstone of everything we’ve all been working for,” senior Andrew Fung said.

Both Fung and Brooks believe the band’s passionate pursuit of music is what has made them so successful. “Obviously the nearly constant rehearsals help, but we’ve spent a lot of time working to not only be able to play the music technically, but also to understand the music and the feeling and emotions behind it,” Fung said.

For the final state championships, the jazz ensemble performs a twenty-minute set in front of a panel of three judges during the morning and afternoon competition.  The top two performing jazz bands from each class then compete again in the evening for the Iowa Jazz Championship state titles.

“Every member in the band was completely sold on being the best player they possibly could from the start of the season all the way through the end. It’s not very often that you find a group of people so committed and focused, but who can also goof around and carry the liveliness that embodies jazz music in their own personalities,” Brooks said.