Jazz Band Continues to Shine


Rio’s jazz band joined high school bands from across the country in New York for the Charles Mingus High School Competition and Festival.

Just making it into the highly selective competition is considered an honor and it is not the only honor the band program has won recently, as musicians racked awards at the Folsom Jazz Festival and elsewhere.

Rio is one of six combos selected for the Mingus festival, along with six big bands.

The Jazz bands are nationally ranked and reminded people why when the Mingus jazz festival representatives heard a recording of them playing and sent them an invitation to the prestigious event.

A select few from the jazz band flew to New York to participate in the annual Mingus Jazz Festival. This was jazz band’s first time going to this festival and everyone was excited. “I was super excited for the trip, it was a lot of fun,” said junior Bly.  

The group was and picked by senior drummer Sean Nelson; senior singer and saxophonist Hannah Oldfield, junior pianist Nick Agusta, senior trombonist Jason Danielson, junior saxophonist Duncan McElman, senior trumpet player Chris Harris and junior bassist Adam Bly performed in the literal freezing weather of New York.

Put on by the late Charles Mingus’ widow Sue Mingus, the three day long festival is for high school and college students to show off their musical abilities for the chance to win trophies, awards and medals. “They only choose three High School jazz combos from the US to go and play, so it was really a very elite musical experience,” said McElman. “We are honored and thrilled to have been a part of it.”
The band itself didn’t win, but McElman and Oldfield both won soloist awards and the band got to play with all other participants and at the Jazz Standard, a New York jazz club, later that night.

“I won the soloist award for my performance and my improvisation with saxophone. I was also invited to play with the Mingus big band, which was a defining point in both my musical and personal life,” said McElman. “It was life changing and something i’ll never forget.”

Oldfield won soloist for her singing of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. “It felt really great because such highly acclaimed musicians were judging and it was an honor for them to recognize me,” Oldfield said. “It was a surreal experience.”


Jazz band has been winning awards for the school for years and they continue to bring home trophies. At the Folsom jazz festival all four bands won awards, AM and FM, Mingus combo taking first and and hot date combo placing second.