All That Jazz

Jazz A Band performed on-stage with the theater department for the first time during their production of “Chicago,” Oct. 6 – Oct. 9.

All That Jazz

While the RUHS Jazz A band was not front and center on stage, without it, the theater department’s production of “Chicago” would not have been “All That Jazz.” 

Running from Oct. 6 to Oct. 9, “Chicago” was accompanied by 23 Jazz A musicians. The band, conducted by senior Joe Mintz, played 36 songs, including “Roxie” and “Cellblock Tango.”

“It’s a really fun show so it was cool to get to contribute to it,” Mintz said. “I think most of the band would agree that it was a good experience since it was different from what we normally do and the music is fun.”

According to Mintz, during their six-week rehearsal process, the band faced many difficulties, such as the high level of the score, many members’ lack of experience and long rehearsal times. Although, according to Mintz, most of the problems were “quickly resolved,” the band later ran into spacing difficulties when they rehearsed with the rest of the cast and crew in the week leading up to the show. Unlike previous musicals, this “pit orchestra” was not in the pit below the stage but was actually on stage on a platform in the back, leaving the cast and band with less space. 

Junior Jacob Powell, who played a trombone solo during “Mr. Cellophane,” felt “a lot of pressure” due to the spotlight that shone on the band during parts of the show. Mintz also felt that the band’s onstage presence made performing “a bit harder.”

“The stage isn’t so big so it was hard to get me to a place where the whole band could see me conduct. The band’s location was also difficult because, by being on stage, we were totally exposed. We couldn’t be as relaxed as we were in other productions and we had to teach everyone stage etiquette. [However,] I think it’s good that this was the case so the underclassmen will know how to behave in future shows,” Mintz said.

Additionally, the band realized they had to make adjustments during their three-day rehearsal period with the actors. 

“The first day was rough. We figured out that some songs needed to be faster and others slower. We also had to figure out cues and I had to learn hand signals to help the rest of the band. It was hard because we had to adjust to the actors and their dialogues, but thankfully we were good to go by the third day,” Mintz said.

For senior Alexis Battin, the process of learning the music was particularly “challenging.” Battin normally plays the clarinet but had to learn to play a new instrument, the bass clarinet, due to its prominence in the show’s score. Battin also played a solo in “Mr. Cellophane,” which she felt further intensified her part’s difficulty.

“I felt a bit like I was thrown into the deep end since I had to learn to do something completely new in a short time. It was hard but it was definitely fun getting out of my comfort zone,” Battin said. “I’ve always wanted to [play in] a pit orchestra, so getting to do that and also getting a special part was great.”

Though the musicians faced many challenges, Mintz, Powell and Battin all believe the process was worth it.

“I’m really proud of the band for pulling this off,” Battin said. “I’m glad I got to do it and I hope people enjoyed it.”