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Jazz meets the Facebook generation (and thrives)
By Anna Marie Kukec | Daily Herald Staff

The smallest combo with the biggest sound may have been the three-piece St. Francis High School Jazz Ensemble from Wheaton. From left: Mike Novak, drums, his brother Matt Novak, guitar, and Colin Moat, bass.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Chase Matzinger of Lake Zurich High School Jazz Ensemble plays the marimbas.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

David Sutton of Batavia High School solos on the electric violin.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Matt Novak rehearses a guitar solo before St. Francis took the stage.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Nikki Gaseor solos on tenor saxophone with her band from Batavia High School.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Part of the Elk Grove High School sax section, Nicole Przybylski and Vince Genualdi, talk strategy before their turn to perform.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Elk Grove High School sax players Nicole Przybylski, left, and Vince Genualdi perform during their turn at the Jazz in the Meadows competition at Rolling Meadows High School.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Julian Cammarano of Marmion Academy warms up on the bass before performing.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Josh Lam concentrates on his piano solo with the Sandburg Middle School in Mundelein Jazz Ensemble.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Mike Uhlarik, left, and Robby Mack of the Prospect High School Jazz Band warm up before taking the stage.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/4/2009 12:07 AM

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The history of jazz reaches back more than 80 years. So what's it doing now with the Facebook generation?

About 2,500 young musicians showed they are rediscovering the richness of jazz at the 24th annual Jazz in the Meadows Festival on Saturday.

The wide-ranging competition pitted nearly 70 of the most powerful high school bands in a popular series of concerts, involving 118 performances and hundreds of fans at Rolling Meadows High School.

Warren High School Jazz Ensemble I, directed by Drew Russell, drew top honors this time.

"A lot of the kids love to perform and they really look forward to the comments and feedback they get from professionals," said Chris Buti, band director at host Rolling Meadows High School, whose bands also performed but did not compete.

"They get a lot out of it ... some go into the field as a performer at college or later become a band director."

The depth of the music has consistently reached out to every generation, regardless of when it was created. Jazz just makes them want to play, seek out the rhythms of the past to help them find their own sound in the future.

"This is some of the stuff that brought people together about 80 years ago," said Samantha Melinyshyn, 17, a trombone player with the Wheeling High School band, which was last year's grand champion. "When you learn it, there's so much to it. So much depth, it's endless."

But with so many new digital devices and instruments hitting the market today, won't the more traditional music and instruments fade away?

"There's such a dedication to the arts and a passion to make music, that I don't see that happening," said Ben Marcus, 17, an alto saxophonist with Wheeling High School.

Jazz in the Meadows attracts all the major powerhouses. While the day is packed with concerns, improv sessions, combo performances and workshops, it also offers students interaction and alumni a chance to return home.

One of them was Doug Leibinger, 40, who graduated from Rolling Meadows High School in 1985, a year before the festival moved to Rolling Meadows from south suburban Oak Lawn High School after its director retired.

Leibinger now is director of jazz performance at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

"This festival has a great reputation throughout the area," said Leibinger.