NOTES DA CAPO - By Clifford Brown
October 1985

Jazz and other forms of so-called "popular music" eased into school music very gradually. The highly rhythmic jazz, originating about 1910-1915 in the cheap saloons and brothels of New Orleans, was far removed from the traditional music literature of the school, church, and concert hall. As ragtime and blues became more refined, using a slower tempo and smoother rhythms, jazz began to spread to Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and other large cities.

The first performance of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" in 1924 and the appearance of sophisticated arrangements by the "Tin Pan Alley" goup of specialists helped to elevate jazz to a high level of respectability. The Symphonic jazz of Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, using some compositions from the standard concert repertoire along with expertly arranged sentimental ballads of the day, brought jazz even further into the mainstream of American music.

As the school band movement spread throughout West Virginia from 1930- 1950 and students became more proficient on their instruments, they wanted to play jazz. Since overtures, marches, and the like dominated the school band literature, jazz was considered an outside-of-school activity. Students would meet in a small group, usually in a member's home, where they practiced as often and. as long as the family and the neighborhood would tolerate. If and when they improved enough to play for school dances and community events, their efforts to win recognition from school officials and even the music teachers were achieved. Some instrumental teachers, themselves jazz players during college days, assisted the students and occasionally played with them.

Out of it all the present-day stage band gradually evolved. Its music requires a high level of technical proficiency, a keen sensitivity to its rhythmic demands, and a perception of current stylistic effects. Stage bands are now recognized ensembles in high school and college music education programs. Jazz, a generic name for all types of popular music, is established as an integral component of our musical heritage.

The first stage band festival in West Virginia was sponsored by Gorby's Music House in 1949. Eleven stage bands from Virginia, Ohio, and West Virginia participated. Information is sparse, but apparently these festivals met at Gorby's until 1962 when the Bandmaster's Association accepted an invitation for the stage band festival to be held at Morris Harvey College, now the University of Charleston. Some years later the festival was divided into northern and southern groups that now meet at various locations in the state.

Tacit - for now.