Mt. Rainier High Jazz Band to Appear at Highline Classic Jazz this Saturday

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Band teacher Mat Montgomery,a lifelong jazz trumpet player playing Billy Strayhorn's 'Take the A Train' in the jazz band rehearsal hall of MRHS.

Story & Photo by Janet Grella

The organizers of the Highline Classic Jazz Festival are pleased to announced that Des Moines’ very own Mt. Rainier High School Jazz Band will be performing at the Festival at the Landmark Event Center this Saturday, March 10th.

The festival runs from 3-10 p.m., with 11 different bands all performing classic jazz from the 1930’s and ’40’s. The MRHS Jazz Band will be playing at 4:15 p.m. in the auditorium on the second floor.

I was honored to be invited down to listen to them practice for the concert by director/teacher Mat Montgomery. But do you realize they start practice at 6:45 in the A.M.? He calls this rehearsal time “zero hour jazz.” This is “zzzzzz’ hour for me. The musicians have to rehearse at this time because many of them are in other musical endeavors at the school, and practice during school hours. I opted instead to talk to Mat about the MRHS Jazz Band.

The MRHS Jazz Band is made up by four trumpets, five trombones, a tuba, four saxes, two drummers, a bass and a guitar. These 18 student artists range in grades from freshmen to seniors.

Mat told WLB that this was the first time the student musicians will appear in a non-school event in Des Moines.

“They are very excited about this. It will be a great experience for them,” he said. They have appeared at Soundview Jazz at Renton High School and a fundraiser for Pacific Middle School and MRHS.

The Jazz Fest attendees can expect to hear the Big Band sounds of Duke Ellington and Count Basie from MRHS’s performance. The musicians have been listening to original recordings from the 30’s-40’s to emulate the jazz sounds they hear.

Mat is a first year music teacher at MRHS. He came to them via the UW, where he was a Jazz Studies major. He was on the road with the Glenn Miller Orchestra for eight months some time back. He traveled all over the states and Canada and spent four weeks in Japan touring with the Orchestra. It was only then that this Seattle native realized there was no place like home–and chose to leave the road, settle down in Des Moines and teach music.

“The administration at MRHS is very supportive of the arts. It’s important at MRHS. There’s support from them as well as the parents,” said Mat. “We are happy to be a part of the Highline Classic Jazz Festival. In the next few years we will be hearing alot more about the jazz program here.”

Remember, students 18 and younger are invited to come in and hear their friends play for no charge! General admission is $35 and $30 for military and seniors.

This years’ event will have more jazz than ever with eleven bands participating in two music venues, and more styles of music including Straight Ahead Jazz classics, early and mid -20thcentury jazz styles, from Dixieland, Gypsy Jazz and Western Swing to Big Band Swing.

For more information click here, or call 206-244-7808.

The fourth annual Festival is presented by Burien Arts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing affordable access to visual and performing arts in the Burien/Highline area, and by Landmark Event Center, a 1926 historic building overlooking Puget Sound. It is sponsored by Cedarbrook Lodge & Copperleaf Restaurant, 4Culture, SoKing Internet Radio, Alaska Airlines, New Balance Chiropractic and the City of Burien, Parks, Recreation and Culture.

The Landmark Event Center is located at 23660 Marine View Drive South in Des Moines.

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