KHSJO at the Frank Coughlan Invitational

In 2017, the Kirrawee High School Jazz Orchestra won Gold at the Don Burrows Big Band Event. This meant that if we wanted to be involved in this event in the future, we had to move into another category. We had already reached the pinnacle of that level.

It was at that stage, the KHSJO were invited to be a part of the Frank Coughlan Invitational. This event gives the Jazz Orchestra the opportunity to present a 25 minute concert to members of the public, John Morrison and a visiting clinician from the US.

Last year, we had the pleasure of meeting and working with Denis Di Blasio, a Baritone Sax legend from the US. We also took the opportunity to workshop with Denis after the event. The students learned a lot of really valuable tips and we were super excited to see he was back.

We were the last of 4 groups in the first half of the event and we were able to present 5 numbers. We opened with Theme from Sesame Street – a chart written by Denis for the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. When Denis came to Kirrawee last year, we had just started this chart so it was lovely to have the chance to play it with him at the Australian Institute of Music.

Myles Benyon of Year 11 entertained the audience with a Stevie Wonder classic “You are the Sunshine of My Life”. We wanted to showcase Myles’ scatting ability so we added a section for him to scat. The only thing was, he wasn’t at the last rehearsal so we had to record it for him so that he could run over it at home. We told the audience all of this wonderful back story and they were not disappointed. Myles’s solo was well crafted as was his lead vocal.

This was followed by the most beautiful ballad ever written “Jamie”. This chart featured Tristan Knapman on Piano and the band played it exceptionally well. It was then Bella Thomas’ turn to strut her stuff with her rendition of “Cabin in the Corner”, a gospel number handed over to us in 2012 by the Idea of North.

We concluded with “Happy as Larrikins”, the set piece from Generations in Jazz. This featured our superband trumpeter Jake Hummerston along with Lauren Roach (Alto sax), Genevieve Tyrrell (Trombone) and Noah Bailey (Tenor sax). Tara Gent (Alto Sax) and Tom Tyrrell (Bari Sax) played fantastic solos. Denis and John were both very complimentary about our performance.

At the end, we had the pleasure of workshopping with Denis and John. We learned many a thing that day….all secrets that go into the sanctum of the Jazz Orchestra training vault.

This group of students work very hard all year round and continue to perform at a high standard. I am very proud of this group and am so pleased to see them musically grow and mature. We want to wish the junior group, the KHS Stage Band, all the best at the Big Band Bash on the weekend. We know they are going to do a fantastic job, learn a lot and have the time of their lives.