By Ryan Horton
Choctaw High School Jazz Band recently captured the 2022 Oklahoma Secondary Activities Association Class 6A Jazz Band State Championship.
The Yellowjackets recently proved themselves the best of the best among the state’s largest 32 high school programs claiming gold in Class 6A.
This was the third state title for the CHS Jazz Band as the Yellowjackets won state in 2018 and 2019.
After the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Choctaw’s jazz musicians returned to take state runner-up in 2021.
Director Cameron Burton says Choctaw’s recent success can be credited to dedication by the students.
“Those kids are awesome, and do a great job. Jazz band isn’t for a grade. We practice after school, and everyone in jazz band wants to be there,” said Burton. “We structure our practices a lot like a university program, and the kids get to challenge themselves with professional music.”
Burton says jazz students rehearse four hours per week.
“The jazz 1 students play challenging music, playing arrangements from the Count Basie Band, Stan Kenton Jazz Orchestra, as well as arrangements by Quincy Jones (famous pop music producer),” said Burton.
Choctaw has over 80 students participating in four jazz band ensembles. Two ensembles are under the direction of Burton, while the other two are led by Kim Eary.
Jazz Ensemble I is the top competing group with a rigorous audition process, Jazz Ensemble II also competes representing CHS like the junior varsity team, Jazz Ensemble III is a non-competing group, and prepares to earn placement in Jazz I and II, while Jazz Ensemble IV is non-competing group of middle school students.
The state champion CHS Jazz I ensemble has performed at the nationally recognized UCO Jazz Lab and at the Wichita State Jazz Festival.
This year’s Jazz I musicians include saxophones Brandon Stewart (Lead), Kali Mays, Mali McClenan, Blake Cataline, Dillon Longey; trombones Nick Denton (Lead), Eli Herriman, Kale Hogan, Jessica Underwood; trumpets Ty Clifton (Lead), Toby Nettleton, Riley Anderson, Reagan Kizer, Carson Jorski; rhythm Noble Harrison, (Lead), Nathan Rainey, Seth Garcia, Ben Stone and Drew Ramer.