Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students Get to Jazz It Up in France Arts School Band Plays

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students Get to Jazz It Up in France Arts School Band Plays

Article excerpt

They played the cool jazz of Cole Porter and the soaring instrumentals of Pat Metheny as the River Erdre flowed nearby in the city of Nantes, France, and an estimated 150,000 people a day saw them and other bands like the New Orleans Nightcrawlers and Fofango jamming nearby.

Now the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts' Jazz Ensemble is on the cover of the French magazine L'Express after it was the only high school band invited to the three-day Rendez-vous de l'Erdre, an international jazz festival held on eight stages in early September.

That was way cool, said band drummer Ulysses Owens, 17, a Westside teen who's been banging the skins since he was 2. Owens said he was excited and nervous when he learned his band had been invited to the international festival in Nantes, one of Jacksonville's sister cities.

"I couldn't believe it, and what a great opportunity it was. If I wasn't here in this band at Douglas Anderson, I don't believe I would have gotten that opportunity," Owens said. "At first, it was a very strange feeling playing before a big crowd, but the people were always glued at us and looking at our playing, appreciating us. It was intimidating at first, but as I started playing, we got into the groove."

Playing at festivals isn't unusual for the 19-piece band, which has performed traditional big band, jazz and Latin music at venues like Jacksonville Day at the State Capitol and a Bastille Day celebration at Fort Caroline National Monument.

But it was while playing at last fall's WJCT Jacksonville Jazz Festival that band director Ace Martin said staff from the festival heard his 14- to 18-year-old players. The invitation to get funky in France followed in January.

"They had a delegation going around the world picking performers, and couldn't believe how well kids of this age performed. They invited us out and put us up for three days," Martin said. "We were on French public radio and interviewed for Web radio and the kids jammed with other players from around the world and held their own. …

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