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12,000 Students Get Upbeat Jazz Lesson : Concert Series : Offers Salute by Disneyland

February 25, 1987|PATRICK MOTT

For three hours Tuesday, the Disneyland band may have been hotter than MTV.

That was how long it took the band, playing a tightly coordinated, upbeat salute to American jazz, to wow an estimated 12,000 Orange County junior high students at the Performing Arts Center.

The 45-minute program, which played to four separate full-house audiences, was presented as part of the Orange County Philharmonic Society's youth concert series. It traced the history of jazz from its New Orleans roots to jazz rock.

A group of students from Vista del Rio Junior High School in Anaheim had some of the best seats in the house, about halfway up the first tier. And even before the music began, the sight of the hall alone seemed to be enough to impress them.

"It's so big," said Sean Fick, 14, looking around the deep burgundy auditorium.

"It's definitely something you don't see every day," agreed Sean Sheehy, 14.

"It's psychedelic," concluded Robin Franks with a definitive nod. "It really makes something like this a lot more enjoyable in a nice atmosphere."

There wasn't much time for looking, however. The last classes were filing into the back rows of the orchestra level seats when the band came on stage at 9:15 a.m. Dazzlingly bright in red blazers and white slacks and shoes that seemed to glow under the stage lights, their ears revealed by the standard short Disneyland haircuts, the band looked decidedly un-hip. It was not the Beastie Boys.

And a full 3,000-seat house of Orange County junior high students is not exactly Saturday night at the Cotton Club, either.

But by the time the first concert had ended, the students had received a substantial lesson in jazz history, an earful of some of the most famous jazz music ever played, a look at some occasional bits of dazzling technique from the players and the knowledge that it's perfectly OK to applaud a jazz solo in the middle of a piece.

And they did applaud, frequently and loudly. After a particularly gymnastic example of stride piano (an offshoot of ragtime) by band member Ray Templin, Sheehy cracked an appreciative smile while Fick managed a short fingers-in-the-mouth whistle of appreciation. And Doug Ward, 14, turned around in his seat to smile at Sheehy in what appeared to be a universally pleasurable reaction to the first notes of Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade."

Thirteen-year-old Caliene Isaacs' eyes brightened as she listened, transfixed, to a quartet from the band play an arrangement of Benny Goodman's "I Found a New Baby."

Toes all over the tier tapped when the band played the traditional Woody Herman rafter rattler "Woodchopper's Ball."

The show was not simply a jazz concert but a painless musical lesson as well. Introducing each piece on the program, Conductor David Warble placed it in the history of jazz, from the jazz funerals of old New Orleans to the dancing piano of Jelly Roll Morton to the swing era to be-bop.

And there was, predictably enough, a gimmick. Mickey Mouse appeared near the end of the program to announce, through Warble, that each student would receive a souvenir program containing a complimentary pass to Disneyland.

The final piece--a jazz-rock composition by Tom Kubis called "Now Get Outta Here, I Mean It!"--triggered a storm of rhythmic clapping from the students.

The show was one of a dozen continuing musical education outreach programs for Orange County students sponsored by the Philharmonic Society. The concerts had featured the Disneyland band in the past, but Tuesday's programs were the first to highlight jazz.

Recently, Disneyland was given the association's Golden Baton award for its band's participation in musical education in the county.

For Warble, the first show seemed like opening night.

"It only took about three minutes on stage, and I really could tell they were ready to have fun," he said backstage after the show. "It's great because we may be getting something sonically in their heads that they've never heard before. I think they loved it."

The Vista del Rio crowd differed on their favorite sections of the program--Isaacs and Franks voted for Templin's ragtime piano, Ward was enthusiastic about the saxophone solos and Isaacs put in a vote for Brian Atkinson's vibraphone solo.

But they all agreed on one description, perhaps unwittingly slipping into the jazz patois of decades past.

They called it "cool."

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