Unknown Victories of the IHS Jazz Band

Erika Noftall

The word gets around quickly when it comes to the football team or the lacrosse team, but how much do students, faculty and administration hear about the band program at Ipswich High School? You could definitely say not a lot and significantly less than you hear about the prominent and successful sports. Stereotypes are common when it comes to students in the music or band community, which make those students involved and outside students believe that athletes are superior, work harder and should get more recognition. I believe that this should not be a theme in public schools such as ours; students involved in various music programs should not be overlooked. Students who do band love it just as much as an athlete loves their sport.

The Ipswich High School Band Program works very hard and has had numerous successes over the years that some people may not even know of. Along with the class that runs 3 days a week, band practices every Tuesday night from 7pm to 9pm. It is also an unspoken requirement that students should practice on their own time, to be successful when it comes time to record the pieces they’ve been working on. People say it is a very big commitment to be in the jazz band program. According to band president Chris Folan, the hard work is worth it. “Jazz band is very rewarding; we rehearse for 2 hours every night and take our work and enter competitions with it. It is rewarding because we get to see how the hard work pays off when we win at the competitions.”

The band participates in various activities outside of school. For example, the jazz band travels to the elementary schools to introduce the idea of jazz band to a younger audience. The band also does small gigs around town, including playing at the old folks home, playing “Christmas on the Hill” at the Crane Castle each year as well as their big competitions. These students are required to compete in the Norwood Classic each year. In addition, at the MAJE state wide jazz competition at the Hatch Shell in Boston, Ipswich High School in which they won gold.

Band president Chris Folan gave some insight on what influenced him to join jazz band and how it has affected him over the years. “I joined the music program in the fourth grade. The only influence I had was my love for playing the recorder; it made me realize how much I wanted to play an instrument. The biggest effect joining jazz band has had on me was the many unique opportunities it provided for me. Jazz band has also given me so many new friends that I am very thankful for. Most importantly, playing an instrument in the band program is an escape from the stress of everyday life as a high school student.” 

I also had the opportunity to interview the IHS Jazz Band Director, Mr. Lee. In his own words, here is a brief explanation of the band program “The Ipswich High School band program provides opportunities that encourage an understanding of/interest in all aspects of music. On the technical side of things, the  students in the band program develop musicianship skills as an ensemble, working knowledge of music theory concepts and practices, and the ability to listen, analyze, describe, and evaluate a musical performance. Students also develop the values of individual and collective effort, cooperation, tolerance, fellowship, community, discipline, self-respect, respect for others, dedication, and personal responsibility. Our goal is to work hard, learn, have fun, and represent Ipswich High School with the highest standards of personal and musical excellence throughout our community!”

 Mr. Lee was a band student all four years of high school, went on to study music and performance in college and has been teaching since 2013 when he first started instrumental programs. He also explained what made him choose this career path and why he loves it. I was influenced by growing up in a musical family, as well as gaining a ton of inspiration from my own high school band director. My two favorite things about being a band director would have to be (1) watching the “ah ha” moments as the students work starts to come together and (2) being able to sit back and listen to/watch the performance of an entirely student run ensemble. As our music becomes concert ready, I slowly transition from being a teacher into being a conductor/audience member for the performance.

If someone were to ask Chris if they should enroll in the Ipswich High School Band Program, whether an incoming freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, this is what he would have to say “100% do it; you’ll regret it if you choose not to. Mr. Lee is incredibly helpful with students at all types of levels, beginner or expert. It is so worth it because it is an experience that you will carry for the rest of your life, way beyond high school.”