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Folsom High School Jazz Band and Jazz Choir

Sep 25, 2014 10:56AM ● By LeeAnn Dickson
American jazz has been called the purest expression of our democracy—music of both independence and cooperation, all while balancing the yin and yang of individualism and compromise. British actor and musician Hugh Laurie recently noted: “Jazz is America’s gift to the world.”

The Folsom High School Jazz Band and Jazz Choir are champs at bringing that gift to our area and beyond. Since 1993, the Jazz Band 1 has been named “Number One High School Jazz Ensemble in the Nation” 10 times by DownBeat Magazine, with 2014 marking the sixth consecutive year; and for 15 years in a row, the Jazz Choir has been awarded for being the best.
While an incredible honor for the performers, Folsom High School and our community, no one could be more proud than Music Director Curtis Gaesser, who has been guiding generations of musicians. “I create something kids want to be a part of,” Gaesser explains. “They all strive to do their best.” 

Gaesser, a natural leader who’s been at the helm of the school’s award-winning music program (now in its 84th year) since its earliest days, was personally honored by DownBeat Magazine in 2008 as the winner of their Annual Achievement Award in Jazz Education. “I am a manager of talent...My philosophy is to stay out of [the students’] way. It is always about the kids.”   

Folsom High School offers three levels of Jazz Bands and two Jazz Choirs. Jazz Band 1—which is comprised of 22 student musicians who play trumpets, trombones, saxophones, the piano, drums, guitar and bass—is the apex for all the students to aspire to. “The kids know what is expected of them before they join up,” Gaesser says. In Jazz Band, they play everything from the ’40s big band leader Woody Herman to contemporary composer and living legend Maria Schneider. “I have high expectations of the kids,” Gaesser admits. Jazz Choir 1 offers music in a wide range of groups, from the timeless sounds of Manhattan Transfer to newer bands such as One Direction. “I choose the right music to benefit their [that’s] traditional, current, edgy and always evolving,” Gaesser says.

Since Jazz Combo and Jazz Choir 1 won this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation competition again, both groups performed as artists in the 57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival, which was held in late September. “I’m extremely proud to be part of this group,” Gaesser says.
The school holds their own competitions, too, such as the Marching Band Contest in November and the annual Jazz Festival in January, where bands from around California come to participate in a fun and rewarding competition.

The nonprofit Folsom High School Music Boosters also host many fund-raisers for the group throughout the year. Next month, on November 14, will be one of the biggest: a crab feed.
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