FAIRMOUNT — Walking past the Madison-Grant High School band room in the morning, one may hear catchy tunes like "The Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Proud Mary."
For the school’s tight-knit jazz band ensemble, continually learning new pieces is the norm to keep their busy schedule, whether performing at the Paramount Festival of Trees Jazz Band Night or the Madison County Jazz Festival. The band has won awards for playing from a wagon pulled along the James Dean Festival parade route, and plays many years for an Indiana Pacers’ basketball team’s pregame show at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Kristin Caudill, in her eighth year as director of the junior and senior high bands, directs the jazz band, which meets five days a week during the school day, and earns students academic credit. Once students know the piece, she watches from the sidelines rather than conducting.
“Being in the jazz band helps students grow independently as musicians,” Caudill said. “They are often the only one on their part so they have to be comfortable with playing their parts without relying on listening to someone that has the exact same parts. Students perform in a lot of different styles which helps them grow as musicians as well.”
Caudill’s husband, Brad, is Assistant Director of Athletics Communications and Marketing for Ball State University and along with nurturing their two boys under age four, she encourages her students’ development.
“The soloing and improvisation really pushes some students out of their comfort zone and takes a lot of practice for students to feel comfortable and confident in what they are playing. Because the jazz band is a smaller group, we are able to rehearse and perform more songs during the year.”
The Celebrate Spring Jazz Festival is a significant event because it’s held on M-G’s home turf and the students are aligned opposite on stage across from experienced players from the Mississinewa Valley Band’s swing band ensemble also plays. The student group and the community group alternate playing jazz tunes.