Jazz Cafe aids WISD Band

About 300 guests were treated to an evening filled with dining, jazz music and dancing at the Waxahachie Civic Center on Saturday.

The event was the annual Jazz Café, held by the Waxahachie High School Jazz Orchestra.

The evening’s entertainment began with a catered dinner by Three Sister’s Catering and music provided by a combo made up of WHS Band Director Rich Armstrong and alumni guest performers Keith Davis and James Davis.

The production planning begins almost a year before the next event.

“It takes a lot of effort and time for the booster clubs board members and volunteers to arrange for the gifts and donations that are donated by local merchants and services,” Merritt said. “We also have make decisions on the food and decorations as well as setting up the community center.”

There were close to 110 items in the silent auction. The items included artworks for area artist, sports event tickets, apparel, home decorations and baskets. There was also a raffle for a laptop computer and a tailgate bundle.

The annual event is a fundraiser to help with band expenses to the musicians and programs.

“We help with various things in the program including instrument repairs, music and needs of the directors and students,” Merritt said.

Before joining the full band of students, the trio of musicians entertained the guests with several Big Band favorites.

The evening of music continued with the Jazz Orchestra taking the stage including the guest artists. They started with a medley of great jazz standards. They offered up variations of Swing and Big Band songs including many Glen Miller, Dave Brubeck and other Big Band era favorites and more modern jazz offerings.

Sitting in with the Jazz band, alumni James Davis went on to University of North Texas holding a bachelor’s of music and a master’s of music in trumpet performance. The Waxahachie grad has played with the UNT One O’clock lab band and the university’s wind ensemble. Professionally, he has played with the Glen Miller Orchestra. He continues to perform as well as on the faculty of Trinton College in Illinois.

Another alumni and the brother of James Davis, Keith Davis graduated from University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s of music education degree and a master’s in clarinet performance. He has played with the UTA and TCU Jazz bands. Davis continues his professional carrier playing at several venues in the metroplex and is the band director at Midlothian Heritage High School.

Besides being in the jazz orchestra, the students are also active in other music programs at the high school. Most of the members were selected by audition to the All Region and All Area bands. Several others auditioned and were selected to be in the All Region and All Area jazz bands.

Lead Trumpet Gannon Escobar is a member of the Class 6A All State Jazz band and will be performing in San Antonio. Other all state jazz band members are James Merritt on percussion and Todd Smith on trumpet.

“These kids start practicing at 7 a.m. every day, practicing until 8 a.m. before school starts. And some of the members are in other music or drama groups that practice after school,” Vice President of Special projects Julie Merritt said. “As a parent, we appreciate the work Mr. Armstrong puts into the group. He teaches a very good work ethic and prepares the students for the real world. He expects the best and they give it back to him.”

Songs like “In the Mood,” “Little Brown Jug,” “Pennsylvania Six-5,000” provided plenty of music that filled the dance floor with quest of all ages.

This is the 11th year for the Jazz Café, according to Merritt.

“This annual event is a chance to feature the members group as well as being a fundraiser for the band boosters to help funding assistance to the districts band programs,” Merritt said. “We help with paying for private lessons, maintaining instruments, sending kid to competitions and many other financial needs of the band students in grades six through 12. We are hoping to raise at least $5,000 after all the expenses are paid.”

Assisting with serving the tables and assisting guest were volunteer members of the districts other band programs. Band members from then eighth grade up assisted with serving refreshments and deserts as well as clearing tables for the dinner’s next course.