F.A.M.E. dances for Westford music programs

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A view of the dance floor and the Festival Jazz Band

By Craig Brinkerhoff
Staff Writer

On Friday night, F.A.M.E. held its Spring is in the Air Dinner Dance.  Held at the Chelmsford Elks lodge, the annual fund-raiser featured performances by the Westford String Troubadours, the Westford Academy Honors Choir, Westford Academy Jazz bands, and individual/duet performances.  In addition, a raffle was drawn, giving the grand prize winner a brand new 32 Gb iPad Mini.

F.A.M.E., or Friends Advancing Music Education, are a version of a booster organization.  They support all levels of music throughout the Westford School system, by way of bolstering the music education programs in town.

The Troubadours, Chorus students, and Repertoire Jazz Band performed in the early evening.  As dinner attendees arrived and later mingled around, they were entertained by these groups.  All three represent different genres of music, ranging from string to vocal to jazz arrangements.

The Repertoire Jazz Band is a sort of Junior Varsity Jazz program, created by band conductor George Arsenault due to a growing interest in performing jazz.  The band consists of mainly underclassmen, versus the upperclassmen-based Festival Jazz Band.

Soon after, a series of small acoustic performances began.  Charlotte Callon, Catie Martin, and Isable Ment performed; Callon was a solo act and Ment and Martin a duet.

These acoustic performances warmed up the crowd for the night’s main act: the Festival Jazz Band.  A drastic change from Callon, Martin, and Ment, the Jazz Band played with high energy, loud horns and the talented drummer/conductor Arsenault.

The band had spent months preparing over twenty dance charts and vocal jazz songs to get the crowd moving.  Ment and Martin were back again, singing with the jazz band.  With that much music, fitting the performance into the band’s already busy schedule can be rather challenging.

“Truthfully, it’s a difficult fit given the way our school calendar works. That said, it’s such a rich performance experience I’m happy to make adjustments to make it work,” said Arsenault.

Despite some hurdles, he believes that the performance is very worthwhile for these young musicians.

“It is a truly authentic gig experience for young jazz musicians. There are certainly other types of professional performance opportunities, but for someone playing in a jazz or rock or dance band, this is completely authentic,” said Arsenault.

During an intermission, the results for the raffle were unveiled.  Winners received a 32 Gb iPad Mini or assorted gift cards from numerous businesses and arts venues.

The band concluded their set with Glen Miller’s iconic In the Mood, one of the most famous jazz/dance band songs ever written.  The school improvisation group performed as attendees left the facility.  Composed of members of the jazz improvisation class at Westford Academy, many members of this group are also members of the Festival Band.  That presents an interesting situation for these performers.

“Being part of the [improvisation] group made it so I had to play conservatively,” said principal trombone player Graham Goodwin.

As the night wound down around eleven o’clock, there was a general appreciation for the students donating their time to provide an entertaining evening and help raise money.

“As usual, the bands absolutely shined. There is nothing like live performance to make bands play well. When you add in the intimate venue and overall buzz in the room, it makes for a great night,” said Arsenault.