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Back Bay

High school bands showcase jazz skills at Berklee festival

January 25, 2009
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Three thousand students will get 18 minutes of fame Saturday when they compete in Berklee's 41st annual High School Jazz Festival.

The students - 200 bands from across the country, including those from local high schools Boston Latin and Brookline High - will compete at the Hynes Convention Center for $175,000 in scholarships to Berklee summer performance programs.

Schools are classified based on enrollment size and compete in three categories: large, small, and vocal ensembles.

Each band is allowed 18 minutes to perform, and is graded by three Berklee faculty members.

The public is invited to the performances and can also partake in clinics taught by world-class musicians, including drummers Gregg Bissonette, who has worked with Santana and Ringo Starr, and John Blackwell, who has worked with Justin Timberlake and Prince.

While one of the festival's longtime goals has been to give back to the music educators "who send us so many music students," organizers enhanced the event last year by adding a verbal critique component, said Jennifer DeCicco, associate director of special events at Berklee Performance Center. Bands received immediate post-performance advice from a faculty member. It was a big hit, DeCicco said. "They're getting really personalized attention from Berklee faculty, and they just feel really honored by that," she said. "The band director gets to take something away from that, and the band members get to take something away from that."

Performances begin at 9 a.m., with award announcements at 6 p.m. and a winners' concert at 7 p.m.

MAGGIE CASSIDY

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