The WGHS Instrumental Music Program receives, on average, less than $700 a year from Guildford County. That amount is supposed to fund six performance groups – supplying sheet music, covering travel costs and competition fees, repairing instruments, and equipping the classroom. As a reference, sheet music for single song for one of these groups averages about $100.
Raising the money to fund all these groups, and their activities, one of the primary function of the WGHS Band Boosters. The group is always looking for new ways to do this. Last spring, one of its members suggested the Stinger Jazz Band produce and sell a CD to raise money. Kiyoshi Cater, the director of Instrumental Music as Western Guilford needed no convincing. “What a great opportunity for our students. This is not just a chance for them to showcase their talents, but a wonderful learning experience as well. Studio recording is not an opportunity that most high school musicians have. If this were a break even proposition, it would be well worth it, but to have it make money for the WGHS Music Program, it’s a no brainer.”
Last January, the WGHS Stinger Jazz Band went to Earthtones Recording Studio in downtown Greensboro and recorded their first ever CD, “The Elm Street Sessions”. Benjy Jonson, owner and operator at Earthtones had this to say, “We pushed the boundaries of space and time ... but mostly space. Their horn section (all 16 of them) crammed into my drum room and proceeded to knock my socks off! This ain't just some kids doing it for a grade, this is one killer disc of standards and classics.”
“This was not only a project for the Instrumental Music Department at Western,” says Graham Murphy, Band Boosters president. “The Art Department at WGHS was involved as well. The artwork for the CD was done by students at Western Guilford. Endless thanks go to Music Director Kiyoshi Carter and Art Teacher Kelsey Gagnon-Mathews for taking on this grand project with such willingness and energy.”
So, how did it turnout? “We sold out, all 200 copies. There are still a few “Elm Street Sessions” CDs available online through cdbaby.com. Maybe the coolest part of this project … it is available for download on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.” The Band Boosters shared a portion of the proceeds from the project with the WGHS Art Department.
“Our first CD was so well received,” says program Kiyoshi Carter, “we decided to make a Holiday CD. The students began working on Christmas tunes as soon as school started in August.” The jazz band recorded in late October and early November. Their Holiday CD, “Comfort & Joy” debuted at the WGHS Holiday Concert on December 15th. Again, it was a success.
“We sold 2/3 of our inventory that night,” recalls Graham Murphy. “It was really special; we were able to incorporate even more artwork from WGHS students, too. The cover art was done by one of the trumpet players in the jazz band. How cool is that!”
The Stinger Jazz Band is not done yet. This semester, they are returning to the studio to make another CD of jazz standards. “Last spring’s cd featured the seniors in the Stinger Jazz Band, with pictures and commentary from each of them. We hope that the spring CD continues to be an annual event, giving the seniors a unique way to commemorate their time at Western. It is a great way to showcase our student’s talents and raise much needed money for our programs”. Like the two previous discs, they will be sold through the WGHS Instrumental Music Department, the Band Boosters, and available for download online with iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. The Western Guilford Stinger Jazz Band also has a Facebook page, with videos and commentary, to follow their progress in the studio.
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