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Tallassee hosts eighth annual Jazz Fest
Posted On:
Friday, April 13, 2018
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The auditorium inside Tallassee High School was at one point standing room only during Friday night’s annual JazzFest.

Three colleges, six high schools and one middle school participated in the annual event.

Auburn University, Troy University and Faulkner University jazz bands made their way to Tallassee beginning early Friday. High schools from around the region also embarked on the THS stage.

Carroll High School’s jazz band made the trip from Ozark to Tallassee, as did high school jazz bands from Smith Station, Daleville, Wetumpka, Auburn and Minor High School – all to participate in the 2018 Jazz Fest.

Tallassee’s own Southside Middle School jazz band was the one and only middle school to participate in Friday’s lineup.

According to Michael Bird, choral director and assistant band director, this year’s JazzFest was a well-attended success, earning more than any previous years in concession stand sales.

“All in all, very positive event for Tallassee,” said Bird. “Each year, I am blown away by the enthusiasm and support of not only our own community, but people across the state who come to the Tallassee High School Auditorium to hear great high school and college bands.”

Auburn University’s Jazz Band is always a crowd pleaser and according to Bird, the AU band director will work with students in Tallassee’s band in the coming months.

“We are blessed to have Auburn University every year,” he said. “Their director, Dr. Mike Pendowski, is a Grammy-winning film composer and arranger, and has several degrees in conducting and performance. Since he landed at Auburn seven years ago, he has been with us ever since. Dr. Pendowski is going to be partnering with us as we launch a Summer Jazz Camp in Tallassee next year, sponsored by Auburn University, but based at Tallassee High School.”

Troy University has been a staple in the annual Jazz Fest.

“Troy University has also been along for the eight years of our festival, having performed at five of the JazzFest dates,” said Bird. “They were also the featured band at the very first JazzFest in 2011.”

According to Bird, this year’s line could not have been better.

“This was the closest to a ‘dream lineup’ I have had,” he said. “We had eight high schools and two colleges performing to capacity crowds at the THS Auditorium. During Auburn’s performance, for example, it was standing room only on the main floor as well as the balcony. The setting was loose and casual, ideal for jazz music on a springtime evening.”

Bird said this event could not have come to fruition without the support of Tallassee High School’s band director.

“I really appreciated the cooperation of the rest of our department. Our director of bands, Robby Glasscock, allows me to serve as the event coordinator for JazzFest and I love putting it together. Robby is always working so hard behind the scenes to make our band program great. I don’t think he gets recognized enough for the great things he has done while he has been at Tallassee,” said Bird.

Several people from the Tallassee community had a significant role in Friday’s performance, but one Tallassee native made an important impact in the music program as a whole.

“There would be no jazz festival without Mike Hammonds,” said Bird. “Mike is from Tallassee and was a band director in the U.S. Army before coming back home. He currently writes music compositions for the C.L. Barnhouse Company, which publishes band music. He works with our jazz bands at Southside and THS. He has a passion for music education and it is evident in everything he touches.”

This event was coordinated by a group of individuals who, according to Bird, played a meaningful role in Friday’s JazzFest.

“Amanda Glasscock was our band liaison for this event. She ran back and forth between the warm-up and performance areas and made sure everyone was happy and had what they needed. Debbie 

Rogers made sure that we had all the concessions we would need to sell to the hundreds of students we had on campus. Brent Langley and the Music Boosters were on hand, working hard to please everyone. We also had students serving as stage crew all evening, moving equipment and meeting the demands of each band director,” said Bird.

Tallassee’s assistant choral director also contributed to Friday’s lineup with a melody of her own. According to Bird, Amanda Anderson has made a substantial impact in the music department since her arrival last summer.

“I also want to recognize my choral colleague, Amanda Anderson,” he said. “She has made a tremendous difference in our program since she came here, and anyone who heard her amazing voice Friday night will probably want her to stay around for a while. She was the featured soloist on the THS Jazz Band’s performance of the famous torch song, ‘Cry Me a River.’”

While several people helped make the 2018 JazzFest a reality, one man may have been vital to the annual event. This man has always been known for community support and this is just another example of how he gives to back to the community he lives in.

“It was all made possible by Tommy Lawrence, who operated the sound and lights for the festival,” Bird said. “He was upstairs, so nobody could see him, but occasionally he was heard. I am grateful to all of these people for what they did to make Tallassee look good — here’s to the ninth annual JazzFest next year.”