The jazz ensemble split in two to work on the arrangement for Herbie Hancock's jazz standard "Cantaloupe Island." It's a complex arrangement, but toward the end of rehearsal, the rhythm section was close to having its funky beat down. Not bad for middle schoolers.
Last week was jazz camp at Hilton Head Christian Academy. About a dozen students brought their instruments to the school each morning to learn and play jazz, even getting to practice with some local jazz legends.
The week served as a pivotal moment for the academy's young jazz program, as well as The Jazz Corner's Junior Jazz Foundation that sponsored the camp.
"I love the idea of a summer jazz camp on the island," said Bob Masteller, owner of The Jazz Corner on Hilton Head and a founder of Junior Jazz. "I think there'll be a base of interest among students. We find that more and more they just aren't exposed to jazz. Not all take to it, but a lot of them do."
Junior Jazz was started five years ago to foster a love for the music in local schools. The foundation has hosted workshops, donated instruments and funded student trips to jazz camps elsewhere. Masteller had thought a camp could work on Hilton Head. But it wasn't until Hilton Head Christian's music director, James Berry, got involved that it became a reality.
Berry started a jazz program at the school shortly after arriving in 2007. The jazz band mostly has to meet outside normal class hours. But it has made strides, including playing at the Tanger Outlet reopening earlier this year.
Masteller and Berry had connected through Junior Jazz before. The foundation had helped provide instruments to the academy's music program, and its jazz band had played at The Jazz Corner. Knowing Berry's dedication to the music, Masteller said the decision to sponsor a camp at the academy was easy.
Before the year ended, Berry gauged interest in whether students would be interested in attending a summer jazz camp. He got a positive response from more than a dozen students. As it so happened, most of the attendees were middle schoolers, many of whom weren't very aware of jazz until Berry introduced them to it.
Andrew Mooney, 11, comes from a line of drummers. Both his grandfather and father played. And now he's looking to follow in their footsteps, gravitating toward the music many of his peers overlook.
"I like to play jazz and blues and all that," he said.
The week consisted of rehearsing some jazz classics and breaking down into smaller groups to work on parts. The camp consisted of a full ensemble, with saxophones, a trumpet, a trombone and a rhythm section that consists of three sisters on keyboard, bass and guitar. Masteller, a trumpet player, along with local jazz pianist Lavon Stevens, sat in with the students one day.
The goal is to make the camp bigger -- more students, more guest instructors -- Berry said. In addition, the academy is also holding camps this summer for guitar and music technology.
Berry taught the jazz camp with Temple University music student Josh Kravette. Berry has known Kravette's family for years. He once taught Kravette at a jazz camp he helped organize in New Hampshire. Now, Kravette is returning that knowledge to a younger generation.
"Jazz camp is why I wanted to play jazz," he said.