FAIRFIELD — The Rodriguez High School Jazz Band and Jazz Combo came home from Reno as winners.
The two groups participated in the 2014 Reno Jazz Festival at the University of Nevada, Reno. The competition draws schools from up and down the West Coast, including Seattle and Los Angeles. It features middle, high school and college bands.
The 52-year-old event is an important competition for students, said Scott Miller, who directs the band and combo.
“It’s one of the biggest next to the Monterey Jazz Festival,” Miller said. “It’s a big deal to get awards.”
Rodriguez came home with first place for the 25-piece band and a first place for the nine-piece combo. Band and combo member Elias Lucero earned an individual award for his work on guitar.
The combo played “Darn That Dream,” featuring an arrangement from Elias Lucero and his younger brother Zavier.
“I came up with the idea of the arrangement when my brother was practicing the drums,” Elias Lucero said.
He picked up the guitar about seven years ago, inspired by his father – who is a member of Papa Joe & The New Deal. Lucero plans to follow in his father’s footsteps but also keep up with music education.
Earning honors at the Reno Jazz Festival is the highest honor he could receive, Lucero said.
The combo also played two other songs, “Muneca Del Saten” and “Binky” from Michael League.
This marked the band’s eighth year competing at the festival. Jazz band members gather each weekday before school to practice for an hour. The combo, which began with the school year, rehearses after school.
Freshman Amanda Javier handles bass duties with the band. She picked up the guitar in middle school and has discovered her love for jazz and groups such as Snarky Puppy, led by League.
“I really enjoy playing the music,” she said. “It’s relaxing.”
Like Lucero, Chaco Lechon Peckham grew up surrounded by music. His father is a music teacher.
Peckham played at the Reno Jazz Festival and was up at 4 a.m. the next day to audition at Sonoma State University. His love of music was bolstered by the melody in the “Pink Panther” theme. Peckham plays a handful of instruments and sings. His goal is to own a jazz bar.
“Music is an escape for me,” Peckham said. “It’s a happy place people go to. If I’m having a bad day, I play the sax and it calms me.”
Junior Jackie Wren is one of the school’s drum majors as well as a member of the jazz band. This is her first year in the school’s jazz band. She plays flute, which is not commonly found in a jazz band.
“I play the lighter tones that go with the piano,” she said.
The band was invited to play at the Festival Showcase. However, the invitation reached them when they were almost home.
“That’s a very big honor,” Miller said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.