Student Lead Harmony: Students Form a Jazz Band


Bao Chau Nguyen conducts the band.

Since the beginning of the year, ten students have been occupying the band room every Wednesday lunch to participate in their student-led jazz band, involved with the recently launched Student Initiative Program (SIP).

The band started in early August. “It was some students who enjoyed playing music together and they wanted to play some of their own [chosen] songs,” said Luke DallaGrana, the band teacher at UNIS. “They took initiative in forming the group themselves and finding their own music.”

DallaGrana believes that the jazz band will foster the student musicians’ ability to explore music other than what would be played in band class, APAC Band, or Concert Band.

Jeremy Smith, a Grade 10 member of the band said he joined the band because, “I wanted an opportunity to extend my skills more and have more challenge, especially in an area with jazz music, which I enjoy.”  

A student-led band, it vastly differs from that of other school sponsored music ensembles. “We have more independence and more fun,” commented Grade 9 student Francesco Silva, a member of the Jazz Band, “We all laugh, and there’s no teacher to tell us off.”

The weekly practices are organized by 10th grade student Bao Chau Nguyen, who is the band’s leader. He also organizes practice spaces, attendance records, and musical areas in need of improvement. In other words, Nguyen talked to DallaGrana about leasing the band room during the allocated meeting times and also takes a recorded attendance at the start of practices. Starting at 12:45 and ending at 1:30, the band runs through its music with the main goal of preparing for their next performance at the Spring Fair. “They [the students] take care of nearly everything themselves,” commented DallaGrana .

Recently the jazz band performed at an IB workshop that took place on November 3rd, 2018 to introduce the workshop and offer a sneak peak into the SIP. They performed “No More Blues” by Brian West, a number that was recommended by DallaGrana. The one-song performance served as the opening for the workshop. “I think it went pretty well; we had practiced for quite a while,” recalled Smith.

The 6 month old jazz band is expected to expand in the future according to Nguyen, “Though we’re a tight group, we’ve got room to grow.” Members such as Silva also look forward to the band’s growth. “I can see that this band will grow,” he commented. “I’d like to see more jazz.” Other members of the band are also excited to perform more often. “I’d like to explore some more performance opportunities,” said Smith.