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This weekend, UNLV's esteemed jazz studies program makes its 10th consecutive appearance at the Monterey Next Gen jazz fest, the competitive complement to the legendary Monterey Jazz Fest.
“It’s enormous," said Dave Loeb, director of Division of Jazz Studies at UNLV, "It’s one of the most prestigious educational jazz festivals worldwide.”
The winners of the Next Gen portion of the festival get to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
“The energy is just exciting. It’s electric. It’s hard to describe. Everyone is very excited to be there,” Loeb said.
Loeb said it is really up to the students to reach the level of musicianship required to be invited to the festival.
“We just guide these students. It’s the students that put in the work, decide on the repertoire,” he said.
Jazz Ensemble 1 will perform in competition this weekend, with some of its members playing in smaller groups during exhibition programs. UNLV's honor trio, which is a traditional jazz trio, placed first at the competition last year. Loeb credits the fact that the students performed some of their own compositions at the festival and the high school programs in the valley from which they came.
One of those programs is Green Valley High School. Its jazz band is also going to Northern California, making its debut at Next Gen.
Cara Froelich is the performing arts teacher for Green Valley High School. She also gave credit to the students and their desire to push themselves.
“The students really have to have a strong desire for wanting to be successful and they have to have a passion for the music,” she said.
Froelich said her group of students this year have shown that passion, and a drive to be better each time they play.
Green Valley High School Jazz Band will give two performances at the festival. One for the competition, where they'll stick more to traditional pieces and one for exhibition, where they'll highlight different works and give students a chance at solos.
While Froelich would love to have the students get first place at the competition, the real goal is for her students to become inspired.
“I want the kids to be able to go and see amazing things and be inspired by the things that they see and hear and by the people that they meet," she said, "Then I want them to come back with that inspiration and that new knowledge that they have, and just excite the rest of the program and the rest of the students and young students that we’re constantly developing to be the next group that will be able to participate in something like this.”
How did Las Vegas become so rich with talented young musicians? Though jazz has been largely underrepresented in the city's various clubs, music halls and showrooms, its influence on the valley's student musicians is unmistakable.
Froelich said Las Vegas has a wealth of musicians and teachers who have shared their time and talent with her students. She said many professional musicians have helped rehearse the band and helped individual students privately.
Dave Loeb, director, Division of Jazz Studies; Cara Froelich, performing arts teacher, Green Valley High School
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