Prep students got groovy at a sold-out Jazz Coffee House in Miller Theater last week. The concert, which featured tunes by a wide array of jazz and jazz-influenced artists from George Gershwin to Soundgarden and Herbie Hancock to Van Halen, is the culmination of months of work for Prep’s instrumental music students in the Jazz Band and Jazz Rock Ensemble.
For Reuben Allen, who teaches the jazz and jazz rock classes and conducted last week’s performance, the improvisational nature of jazz provides an exciting instructional challenge. “It’s a mix of playing what's on the page, trusting that you can accompany your peers as they improvise, and improvising your own solos to fit the challenges and puzzles of each tune,” says Mr. Allen. “I try to introduce the students to the basic building blocks of the tune—the chord structure, the melody, the hook. They're learning the language of the piece and then when they improvise a featured solo or accompany it, they're improvising with that language—using it like nouns and verbs.”