The Ups and Downs of Jazz Band

In the Middle

Music is a big part of KO, mainly because the music curriculum has a wide variety of options for students. Todd Millen, the performing arts department chair, helps run multiple bands for students to choose from, including the jazz band.

The jazz band is special because it allows many students who play specific instruments to participate in music at KO. For instance, the guitar, bass, piano, and drum kit are not played in any other band in the KO Middle School. Originally, Upper Prep students were able to participate in the Jazz band. But, the jazz band used to practice twice a week which meant upper prep students had no study halls because the concert band also practiced twice a week. Mr. Millen decided it was too hard for the new students to lose all their study halls and therefore made the jazz band exclusively for seventh and eighth graders.

Then during Covid, the jazz band was moved down to one day a week, but Upper Prep students were still not able to participate due to their vaccination status. Last year, the jazz band finally opened up to all grades. “We only had a jazz band once a week, we decided well, let’s bring some sixth graders in” Mr. Millen said. Without the Upper Prep students last year the Jazz band would have only been four people. The Upper Prep students contributed last year and they continue to this year as well.

The jazz band increased this year to 14 students which has both pros and cons. With this size, it can mean less playing time for everyone. “Because there are more people, and Mr. Millen needs to work on everything individually if they make a mistake, I think there is less playing time,” eighth-grade drummer Ryan Jo said. Mr. Millen has considered splitting the jazz band into an Upper Prep jazz band and a seventh and eighth-grade Jazz band. But again, the schedule restricts him from splitting the jazz band up. “I would love to have a jazz band three times and a concert band three times,” Mr. Millen said. “That’s six, and I only got four [music blocks per week]”. 

Hopefully, the new schedule will allow Mr. Millen to expand the jazz band so students can enjoy more playing time while still being able to choose which music they want to play. Jazz band has undergone many changes in the past few years, and hopefully, it can get back on track.