Jazz on the Ridge: Success for the Pennridge Music Department

Andrew Veres
Pennridge Jazz Ensemble performing “Alianza” by Erik Morales.

Every year, the Pennridge High School Jazz Band and Ensemble host their home competition, Jazz on the Ridge. On Friday, March 10, six bordering schools came to perform and have their sets judged. The competition culture is different from other competition-based music ensembles. “With jazz, it’s nice because it’s not first, second, third; you get a rating,” said Lauren Saks, a Pennridge Jazz Ensemble member, “It’s competitive, but it’s not ranked.” Throughout the competition season, Pennridge has earned many section awards for their trumpet, trombone, saxophone, and rhythm sections and several awards for their soloists.

Several volunteers are necessary for an event like this to take place. Karen Mitura, the Secretary of the Pennridge Music Association, said, “We had assigned duties that allowed the event to run smoothly so that there were no loose ends.” Many of Pennridge’s jazz members volunteered to help host the other school’s bands and show them around the school. As well as this, many parents and Pennridge band members who do not play in the jazz groups volunteered to help run the Plinko game, sell food and buttons, and sell candy grams. “All the student volunteers were really nice and helpful,” Max Salguero and Sean Verhey, two Central Bucks West Senior jazz members, commented.

There were also several essential volunteers behind the scenes that kept the performance running smoothly. Christian Gallucci, a bass player for the Pennridge Jazz Ensemble, ran the sound throughout the entire show. His job is to balance the instruments to make each performance sound good. “The hardest thing about doing sound,” Gallucci said, “specifically for these big band events, is having around 10 different bands that all sound different and have different arrangements of musicians.” He monitors what is happening from the soundboard while using a walkie-talkie to converse with the stage crew about what band is next and their setup. “I’m so grateful that everyone in the team works to make it a smooth process which, in turn, makes each others’ jobs easier,” Gallucci said.

However, the jazz competition did not go as smoothly as planned. “We did run into many obstacles,” Gallucci commented. “With the intense weather outside, we had water leaking through the roof onto the stage, where a substantial amount of expensive sound and musical equipment was placed.” As well as this, the pedals on the grand piano in the auditorium broke during a jazz set, and they had to use the electric piano for a few of the performances. “It was quite difficult to make sure the backup electric piano was correctly coming through the system and audible to the judges and audience,” Gallucci remarked. Luckily, a Pennridge graduate in the audience could fix the piano enough for a couple of the last performances. Despite these mishaps, the event was praised as a success. “I just feel like everyone is able to have a good time. There are food, buttons, and candy grams, and there are a lot of things to do, so I think people from other schools were satisfied,” said Saks. All volunteers were very proud of their work in making the event flourish. Mitura commented, “Everybody came together, and we were able to have all of the right pieces in place.”

Between the fantastic performances and the incredible volunteers, the event came together beautifully. Each band gave it their all for every performance throughout the night. “Despite the fun little challenges we met, we handled them to the best of our ability and stayed calm the entire time.” Christian continued, “The bands who attended the festival had a good night; an overall success for the music department.”