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Swingin' jazz sounds good

It's been a pretty busy couple of weeks for Farmington High School jazz band students. It's not easy winning all the awards they have recently, but someone has to do it.

The good news is, the Farmington community will reap the benefits from the recent whirlwind excursions of the FHS jazz ensembles at a free concert Monday night.

All told, the FHS jazz bands participated in three competitions and festivals sat before numerous critics, and earned three awards. That's not to mention the 15 individual awards and scholarships students earned, or the three team awards they brought home.

Those numbers are impressive but not surprising, because, as it turns out, jazz is pretty popular among FHS musicians. So popular, there are actually three levels of jazz ensembles at the school.

"Jazz is alive and well in Farmington," said band director Jeff Gottwig.

What is more, all three levels have earned favorable marks among all of the festivals and contests they've entered.

The tally began with the Jan. 16 Roseville Jazz Blast, and continued through a Jan. 25 music festival at Stillwater High School.

In that time, the bands played for numerous critics -- all of whom are pretty noteworthy in their respective musical fields -- and got a lot of feedback.

Probably the coolest critique, for the Jazz I kids came when they played for Eric Marienthal, a saxophonist in the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band. The kids played one of of Goodwin's songs. Marienthal called Goodwin and held the mircophone to the telephone, then put Goodwin on a speaker. Goodwin gave the students some favorable feedback.

A few of the students earned good marks for listening, rather than playing, when they entered the Minnesota Music Listening Competition in Northfield.

"It's like a Knowledge Bowl for musicians," Gottwig explained.

The competition required students to identify things like the genre of music, the time period and so on.

But for all of the thrill of competing and receiving feedback, Gottwig is still preparing his jazz students for one more big show -- the one at home. All three ensembles, under the direction of Gottwig and Erin Holmes, will have a free concert at FHS on Monday.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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