Winona State hosts High School Honor Jazz Band Festival

Winona State hosts High School Honor Jazz Band Festival

Allison Mueller

Lauren Saner/Winonan

Twelve years ago, percussion professor and director of the Winona State University jazz ensemble, Rich MacDonald, began the High School Honor Jazz Band Festival.

Winona State has had a full curriculum for Honor Bands the past 37 years. With this plan already in place, MacDonald decided to begin a new type of honor band—one to focus on jazz and bring high school students that love jazz and performing together.

MacDonald said this honor band was formed to help introduce potential students to the jazz opportunities here at Winona State, including several jazz ensembles and a jazz minor.

He created this event to not only inform students of the new jazz curriculum, but to implement a workshop-type atmosphere for these students. This included a weekend focusing on the music presented by Winona State jazz students, the visiting high school students, and guest artists.

This year, MacDonald was able to get the group “Seven Steps to Havana” to perform during this weekend, as well as have a clinic with the performing students. MacDonald said the group has created a Latino theme within the music that will be performed. The members of the group have connections to Latin America, including Cuba.

“The connections between these artists to Cuba is a very big deal. [Since] Cuba has been in the political spotlight, this program will connect to the rich musical heritage [of Cuba],” MacDonald said. “I’m also trying to present opening up the music of Cuba because it is a huge tradition for percussionists.”

The Winona State University jazz ensemble will be performing with members of Seven Steps to Havana on Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Vivian Fusillo Main Stage Theatre in the Performing Arts Center. The high school honor jazz bands are performing on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 4:30 p.m. in the Vivian Fusillo theatre as well, with Seven Steps to Havana performing at 7:30 p.m.