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HHS Jazz Ensemble I takes second at Eau Claire Jazz Festival April 23

The Jazz Ensemble I is pictured here. The group took second place at a major competition recently. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
The Jazz I and Jazz II ensembles are pictured here. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

The Eau Claire Jazz Festival is considered one of the best and highly-reputable jazz festivals of the year. For five years, at least one of the Hastings High School Jazz Ensembles have participated or competed.

This year, on April 23, the HHS Jazz Ensemble I received a second-place finished in its class (according to school size). There were 15 bands in the class. This is the first time a Hastings group placed.

Plus, four students earned outstanding student recognition – Sam Poncelet, alto sax; Abe Kummer, flugelhorn; Julia Kneen, drum set; and James McCord, trombone.

“This is like our state competition,” said director Jim Jacobsen. “It is really competitive, the groups come from all over the Midwest.”

Both the Jazz Ensemble I and the Jazz Ensemble 2 attended the event, with the Jazz Ensemble I in the competition and Jazz Ensemble 2 performing during the day at the festival, which was held on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“The competition is always very strong at the Eau Claire Festival, so I am extremely proud of our students,” said Jacobsen. “Both HHS Jazz 1 and Jazz 2 had outstanding performances and represented HHS and Hastings at the highest level.”

This was the 50th year of the festival and 136 groups participated in the day-long event, which included clinics and performances. A preview and concluding concerts were part of the festival.

Each competing group usually performs three or four selections and the judges score them based on improvisation, style, presentation, musicality, time and balance, intonation and articulation.

“(The judges) were pretty, actually really, complimentary,” said Jacobsen. “... The students were excited; they were great.”

He paid tribute to the student performers for their efforts throughout the year.

“This competition reinforced their hard work during the year,” he said. “They are good ensembles.”