Jazz musicians from Warren Township High School in Warren earned their second straight grand champion title Saturday at the 25th annual Jazz in the Meadows festival.
They emerged the overall winner during the grand finale concert that featured encore sets by the top bands from each class, including Wheeling, Decatur McArthur, and Shawano High School, from Shawano, Wis.
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Roosevelt University's Jazz Ensemble directed by Rob Parton, headlined the evening before trophies were awarded to top soloists and ensembles
For Warren, the grand champion title came during a year when the ensemble was invited to play at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.
"My goal is to keep the progression going, and keep improving," said Drew Russell, Warren Township band director.
Warren students were the last band to play among large schools and they drew a standing ovation after their final chart, "Nutville," that featured senior trumpeter Danny Klein of Gurnee.
"We try to play with a lot of energy, play tight and just enjoy it," Klein said.
In all, more than 2,000 students musicians from more than 60 schools converged on the building. They took over every classroom except science labs for their homerooms and warmup locations before heading to one of eight performance venues.
"It's such a great atmosphere," said Buffalo Grove High School junior trumpeter Michael O'Konis. "You're surrounded by everybody who loves jazz as much as you do."
It all added up to nearly 120 performances, taking in the many schools that brought more than one jazz ensemble and more than one jazz combo.
"From its conception, it's grown incredibly in size," said Chris Buti, Rolling Meadows High School band director. "But at its root, it's still about jazz education."
Ensembles played three tune sets - typically an up-tempo swing chart, a blues ballad and a Latin rhythm - before a panel of college music educators and a full audience of parents and other band students.
"We love to play here," said Ed Jacobi, Buffalo Grove High School band director. "We're playing for an audience that really understands jazz."
Bands received comments back from the judges and had a short clinic with one of the panelists who helped sharpen their technique.
One of those judges, Michael Flack band director from the College of Lake County in Grayslake complimented the band from Marmion Academy and Rosary High School, both in Aurora, which finished second among small schools.
"You're playing well and do all the little things that make the performance better," he told them. "There's just a few little nuances that could make you even better."
Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, a previous grand champion, drew more than 200 people to watch their performance in the school's field house. The crowd seemed to appreciate the variety of music, including Michael Plankey's tenor sax solo in the ballad, "I'll Be Yours" by Chris Madsen.
"This festival has always provided a good goal for us," said Scott Casagrande," Hersey band director, "and it showcases all the great things our students can do."