Nanaimo District Secondary School senior jazz combo members Dylan McGowan, Jeffery Adams and Cheden Lee (from left) jam in the NDSS band room ahead of the upcoming JazzFest. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo high school jazz students unite for JazzFest

Vancouver-raised jazz vocalist Laila Biali will join students on the Port Theatre stage

Jazz students from three Nanaimo high schools will be getting some expert advice and showing off their skills.

Around 160 young musicians from Nanaimo District, John Barsby and Wellington Secondary Schools will take to the Port Theatre stage on March 6 for the 21st Harbour City Jazz Society JazzFest. The event is a fundraiser for the schools’ music programs.

Each year a guest musician leads a workshop with the participating students before joining them on stage. This year that role falls to Vancouver-raised jazz vocalist Laila Biali, who closed out last year’s Nanaimo International Jazz Festival.

“It’s pretty sweet because you don’t have to become a professional to play with another top-tier musician,” said NDSS senior jazz combo bassist Jeffery Adams.

The Grade 11 student has been involved in two JazzFests. He said there are a few ways the experience of playing with a professional can help him develop as a musician.

“Playing with them you get to see how good they are and it gives you a place to aim for. I want to be there. It’s all practice to get there,” he said. “And then also preparing to play with them you get a lot of practice learning new songs that might be above your level. And then learning that will improve you a lot.”

NDSS music teacher and Harbour City Jazz Society co-director Rick Becker said in her presentation to the students, Biali, who is also a radio host, will touch on the variety of career possibilities in the arts both onstage and off.

“Students who are aspiring to be professional musicians will get some pointers and some inspiration there,” Becker said. “But … also the fact that the music industry, the entertainment industry, there’s a huge, wide field of economic opportunities for kids from all backgrounds.”

WHAT’S ON … The Harbour City Jazz Society presents JazzFest 2020 at the Port Theatre, 125 Front St., on March 6 at 7 p.m. Tickets $14, available at the Port Theatre box office.

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