When I was in high school I played in the school band and enjoyed it. I had some success and by my grade 10 year I was asked to play first chair trumpet in the senior level band.

But, in grade 12, our band teacher left and a new teacher was hired. Rumour had it, he was into popular music of the day and had done some professional recording and writing.

And he introduced us to jazz.

At first it stretched me and my understanding of how great music could be. But then, as he warmed us up to the freedoms and the limitless capacity of the music—my eyes were opened to a whole new musical world. I could play anything, anyway I wanted. He would allow for major delineations (within the context of the song we were playing) and he gave us the freedom to move well beyond anything we had ever experienced before.

“ACS is much more like a jazz band than a marching band.” This has been an oft-used quote around ACS during the last couple years as we’ve spent time and energy zooming in on who we are and who we serve. The jazz band metaphor has been embraced by many of us here at ACS. But why do we use it?  Where did it come from?  Why does it resonate?

Jazz of course, has its origins in the southern United States within African-American communities.  Hallmarks of jazz music include:  blue-notes, improvisation, syncopation, swing notes and poly-rhythms.  Even from its earliest of days, jazz has always incorporated elements of the current days’ popular music, while all along keeping true to its hallmarks of sound.

In the end what you have is music that is catchy, music that is interesting, music that is not scripted, and music that just flows from the feelings and emotions of the artist performing.  Some would say that the music has a special relationship to time defined as swing. Others would say it contains the sonority and mannerisms that mirror the individuality of the performer. A famous jazz artist was once quoted:  “Jazz is restless, it won’t stay put and it never will.” (J.J. Johnson, famous Jazz trombonist, 1988).

So…the question remains…why is this metaphor so embraced at ACS? Why do we liken ACS to a jazz band?

  • Could it be because ACS is not a school that follows the beat of the world?
  • Or because we are open to the improvisations and syncopations that our remarkable people take it?
  • Maybe because we consider various courses without a guaranteed designated path?
  • Or because we allow for creativity and individuality within a larger context of beauty?

Well…maybe I’ll just leave it at that….  In your mind, is ACS a jazz band or a marching band?