MASON — Wahama High School band and choir students had the unique opportunity of working with some of the state’s best musicians when the West Virginia University Jazz Combo and head of the bluegrass department recently visited the school.
Clinics were held with the high school music students on Sunday, and then the WVU musicians held a school-wide performance on Monday that was tailored to the West Virginia Content Standards and Objectives.
Dr. Travis Stimeling, who teaches music history and heads the bluegrass groups at WVU, led an hour-long clinic with the students. He highlighted singing styles specific to the Appalachian region, according to Rachel Reynolds, Wahama music teacher and choir director. Dr. Stimeling sang songs about the Ohio River, the coal industry, and the West Virginia mountains.
Improvisation was the basis for the second clinic. The WVU Jazz Combo, under the direction of the Fine Arts Chairperson Dr. Keith Jackson, performed several jazz standards, with Dr. Jackson playing trombone.
Reynolds stated it was the first time improvising for many of the high school students. She continued that Mark Cappellini, on the drumset, led the students in a mass improvisation session and helped them conquer fears of creating “on the spot.”
On Monday, the school-wide assembly was held, with Dr. Stimeling addressing various social studies topics through music, including the creation of ballads and West Virginia history. The jazz combo performed, with Dr. Jackson explaining the birth of jazz, the blues, and how the people immigrating to the U.S. each brought their homeland tunes with them, creating a unique mixture of music. He also explained and demonstrated various combinations of pitches and rhythms that can be used to create an improvised solo.
“Wahama is very grateful to have had such wonderful guest musicians visit our school,” Reynolds said.
The school’s newly formed Tri-M Music Honor Society hosted a special lunch for the musicians on Monday. Parents and boosters of the band and choir students provided food for a potluck dinner on Sunday.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and lives in Mason County.